US President Joe Biden leaves for the G20 in India on Thursday, aiming to boost alliances at a summit where global tensions will be highlighted by the absence of the Chinese and Russian leaders.
Biden will try to show that on big transnational issues, Washington is a better partner than Beijing or Moscow — and that the G20 remains a key forum.
But deep disagreements on Russia’s war in Ukraine and on how to help emerging nations tackle climate change are expected to hamper agreements during the two-day meeting in New Delhi.
“As the president heads to the G20, he’s committed to working with emerging market partners to deliver big things together,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told a briefing ahead of the summit.
“That’s what we believe the world will see in New Delhi this weekend.”
Biden will then head to Vietnam on Sunday to deepen relations with the Communist nation, in a region where the United States and China are both flexing their muscles.
The 80-year-old president is due to leave the White House at 4:45 pm (2045 GMT) for the long journey to India.
Aides have refused to say how Biden’s program would change should he test positive for Covid, after his wife Jill came down with a mild case on Monday.
China’s Xi Jinping will miss the G20 meeting at a time of heightened trade and geopolitical tensions with the United States and India, with which it shares a long and disputed border.
– ‘Spoiler’ –
While Biden said last week he was “disappointed” he would not meet Xi at the G20, the Chinese leader’s no-show gives the US president a golden opportunity to push Washington’s influence over its rival.
White House officials said Biden would, in particular, stress a plan to increase World Bank and IMF lending power for emerging nations by some $200 billion as a better alternative to China’s “coercive” Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is meanwhile not even planning to make a video address at the G20, the Kremlin said Thursday, amid fraught relations between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.
But the absence of Xi and Putin underscores the divisions in the G20 and could undermine Biden’s bid to keep the bloc as the leading forum of global economic cooperation.
The White House’s Sullivan said the United States wants to show the G20 can deliver at a time that the BRICS club of emerging economies, which includes India but has been championed largely by China and Russia, is expanding.
Biden will be also cheerleading India and its leader Narendra Modi as a counterweight to China, even if their goals are sometimes at odds, particularly on Ukraine.
Sullivan said on Tuesday that China could opt to “play the role of spoiler” but that Modi and other leaders would “encourage them to come in a constructive way.”
Biden goes straight from the G20 to Hanoi where he will meet ruling Vietnamese Communist party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, hoping to strengthen ties.
Despite the painful legacy of the Vietnam war the two countries have worked increasingly closely, with Biden joining the list of successive US presidents who have visited Vietnam since Bill Clinton in 2000.
Originally published as Biden heads for tense G20 as China, Russia stay away