After the recent diplomatic visits of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to Ukraine and Russia, some Indonesian politicians and public figures have suggested that the Indonesian leader should earn the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to facilitate dialogues between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a feat many state leaders have attempted and failed.
Jokowi’s supporters believe he deserves it, as the first Asian leader to visit both Kyiv and Moscow since the war broke out in February.
But the meetings fell a long way short of securing peace. Just a day after Jokowi left Kyiv, Russian missiles attacked Serhiyivka in the southern Odesa region, killing 16. And just after Jokowi met Putin, Russia claimed total control of Lysychansk, a city in eastern Ukraine.
Since the beginning of Jokowi’s diplomatic mission, many experts have expressed doubts in Indonesia’s capability to be a peace broker and stop Putin’s invasion. It seems that Jokowi only pragmatically uses his visits to serve his own interest and gain domestic attention.
Forget about the world, it’s about domestic interest
The benefits of his shuttle diplomacy for the wider world are still vague, but its aims are closely aligned with Indonesia’s – and Jokowi’s – own interests.
First, Indonesia wants to secure its own wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine.
Second, Indonesia needs to prove its capability in chairing the Group of 20 (G20) this year.
Jokowi, again, invited Putin and Zelenskyy to attend the G20 Leaders Summit in Bali this November, trying to show that Indonesia could accommodate the concerns of the West while still maintaining good relations with Russia.
The double-invitation fits the long-standing principles of Indonesia’s “free and active” foreign policy, which means to engage all parties while keeping balance, especially when dealing with great powers. This ambivalent, fence-sitting approach has been criticised by many as inadequate.
Third, the visits are beneficial for Jokowi and his administration to attract approval from the domestic audience.
The photos and videos released by the Presidential Secretariat Office are designed to target Indonesian audiences attempting to present Jokowi as a humanitarian who is sincerely interested in pursuing peace.
Therefore, it is hard to dispel the notion that Jokowi’s visits were geared towards Indonesian rather than global audiences.
A praiseworthy, yet doubtful mission
However, in a press conference after a private talk with Zelenskyy, Jokowi claimed he received a private message from the Ukrainian leader that he would deliver to Putin. Shortly afterward, Ukraine’s Press Secretary denied the claim, saying that if Zelenskyy had any messages to someone, he would deliver them in his daily public briefings.
By its nature, a secret message – particularly between state leaders – must remain a secret. Jokowi risked losing trust from the Ukrainians by commenting publicly.
There is no reason for Jokowi to say that unless he wants to bolster his credentials and be seen as a capable negotiator in front of the Indonesian people.
Zelenskyy’s official personal Twitter account, which he usually uses to publicly convey gratitude to many foreign leaders, failed to mention Jokowi’s visit. It reflects Ukraine’s wariness about Indonesia’s ambivalent position in this war.
However, Putin apparently used Jokowi’s visit as his PR opportunity, citing the historical connection between the Soviet Union and Indonesia while also highlighting the recent visit of Russia’s Muslim delegation. The nostalgic view and the issue of religion are vital to garner more sympathy from the already pro-Russian society in Indonesia.
Even when Jokowi presented the food crisis issue to Putin, the latter defended Russia’s position, emphasising that the crisis was caused by the sanctions imposed by the West – a quite predictable response.
Jokowi’s assertion about Putin’s commitment to food security was inconsistent with Putin’s statement reiterating that Russia was ready to only supply agricultural products to friendly countries such as Indonesia.
So, it is difficult to see that the visits will have any short-term impacts on the war.Ria Novosti/The Kremlin
Jokowi has said several times that Indonesia has no other interest but peace between Russia and Ukraine. But without a continuation of peace efforts, such as appointing a special envoy to bridge the communication gap between Russia and Ukraine, it is difficult to see this visit achieving anything significant in terms of peace.
Jokowi’s domestic legacy is probably safe if the food prices stabilise, but his foreign policy legacy, especially if he wanted to be considered a global leader like his predecessor Sukarno, is still in doubt.
- ^ to Ukraine and Russia (www.wsj.com)
- ^ the Indonesian leader should earn the Nobel Peace Prize (katadata.co.id)
- ^ the first Asian leader to visit both Kyiv and Moscow (www.aseanbriefing.com)
- ^ Russian missiles attacked Serhiyivka in the southern Odesa region, killing 16 (www.bbc.com)
- ^ claimed total control of Lysychansk (www.voanews.com)
- ^ largest importers of Ukrainian grain (www.asiasentinel.com)
- ^ particularly instant noodles (www.aspistrategist.org.au)
- ^ world’s second-largest demand (asia.nikkei.com)
- ^ could accommodate the concerns of the West (indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au)
- ^ engage all parties while keeping balance, especially when dealing with great powers (papers.ssrn.com)
- ^ ambivalent, fence-sitting approach (www.eastasiaforum.org)
- ^ inadequate (www.aspistrategist.org.au)
- ^ other Western leaders (www.voanews.com)
- ^ courageous decision (www.thejakartapost.com)
- ^ promote peace (www.kompas.id)
- ^ receive the Nobel Peace Prize (www.liputan6.com)
- ^ called any critical scrutiny as “unpatriotic” (bergelora.com)
- ^ was bullied by social media users (www.kompas.tv)
- ^ photos (twitter.com)
- ^ videos (www.youtube.com)
- ^ humanitarian who is sincerely interested in pursuing peace (banten.tribunnews.com)
- ^ mediating role in Southeast Asia (link.springer.com)
- ^ not outside the region (www.voanews.com)
- ^ unsuccessful (www.scmp.com)
- ^ a visa-free agreement (www.ukrinform.net)
- ^ a private message from the Ukrainian leader that he would deliver to Putin (www.thejakartapost.com)
- ^ Ukraine’s Press Secretary denied the claim (www.pravda.com.ua)
- ^ claimed the message’s existence (tass.com)
- ^ burden Jokowi’s credibility (omong-omong.com)
- ^ Experts in Ukraine (niss.gov.ua)
- ^ Zelenskyy’s official personal Twitter account (twitter.com)
- ^ Ukraine’s wariness about Indonesia’s ambivalent position in this war (lb.ua)
- ^ in nuclear energy and railway projects (www.bloomberg.com)
- ^ citing the historical connection between the Soviet Union and Indonesia while also highlighting the recent visit of Russia’s Muslim delegation (en.kremlin.ru)
- ^ The nostalgic view and the issue of religion (indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au)
- ^ the crisis was caused by the sanctions imposed by the West (jakartaglobe.id)
- ^ Jokowi’s assertion about Putin’s commitment to food security (asia.nikkei.com)
- ^ reiterating that Russia was ready to only supply agricultural products to friendly countries such as Indonesia (voi.id)
- ^ Ria Novosti/The Kremlin (en.kremlin.ru)
- ^ Indonesia has no other interest but peace between Russia and Ukraine (voi.id)
Authors: Radityo Dharmaputra, Lecturer in Russian and Eastern European Studies, Department of International Relations, Universitas Airlangga, Universitas Airlangga