How the G20 Summit Responded to the Rocket Hit in Poland


Summit meeting in Bali
Scholz woke up at 3 a.m.: How the G20 summit reacted to the rocket hit in Poland

Olaf Scholz

Almost four hours after the impact, seven o’clock in Bali and around midnight in Warsaw, Scholz called Polish President Andrzej Duda

© Ludovic Marin / AFP

The Chancellor was awakened at three in the morning. The impact of a rocket in Poland with two dead on Wednesday also caused tense hours at the G20 summit in Bali.

It was around three in the morning Indonesian time when Jens Plötner decided to wake up his boss. Plötner is the foreign policy advisor to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, both are currently for the G20 summit in Nusa Dua, Bali. Plötner joined the foreign service almost 30 years ago. The 55-year-old North German is an experienced diplomat who doesn’t tend to dramatize. The fact that in the middle of the night he woke the chancellor to sleep over the phone shows how seriously the German government took the events in Poland.

Team Scholz exercise caution

If it had been a targeted attack by Russian troops, NATO should have discussed an appropriate response. Almost four hours later, seven a.m. in Bali and around midnight in Warsaw, Scholz called Polish President Andrzej Duda and expressed his condolences. Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit then issued a statement that showed caution: Poland will “closely investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident in which two citizens died last night.” Germany is “close to our NATO partner”.

Shortly before, US President Joe Biden had spoken to Duda and later summoned all the heads of state and government of the G7 and NATO countries gathered in Bali for a crisis meeting at nine o’clock Indonesian time (two o’clock in the morning in Warsaw). These included next to scholz also French President Emmanuel Macron and the Prime Ministers of Italy, Great Britain, Canada, Turkey, the Netherlands, Spain and Japan, as well as EU Council President Jean Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not take part “for logistical reasons”, according to German delegation circles.

The previous evening, Biden had canceled his participation in the banquet of the Indonesian President and summit host Joko Widodo at short notice, triggering isolated speculation about his health. After less than an hour, the group of Western heads of state and government broke up again, and Biden then said in front of cameras that it was “unlikely” that the missile had been fired from Russian soil. “I’ll make sure we find out exactly what happened,” he said president.

Evidence points to Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile

At that time, experts on social media had already identified parts of an S-300 rocket in photos of the impact site, which also belonged to one of the Ukraine used anti-aircraft system. As the dpa news agency later reported, Biden also spread similar information among his allies, who initially exercised restraint.

Shortly before 12 noon, Olaf Scholz appeared in front of the press in the Nusa Dua conference venue in Bali and first reported on his phone call with Duda. The Chancellor spoke of a “terrible incident” that must now be “fully clarified”. Scholz avoided disclosing any further information about the rocket impact that he already had at the time, and instead turned to Russia’s increased bombardment of Ukraine Rocket attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine are “recorded everywhere,” said the Chancellor. Electricity and water supplies in particular would be affected by this. “This is unacceptable warfare in this already unjustified war,” said the Chancellor.

With these words, the chancellor was obviously preparing for a reading agreed upon by the Western heads of state and government, according to which Russia, because of its violent attacks on Ukraine, would be responsible for the accident even if the missile had actually come from Ukraine. After all, so this line of reasoning goes, Ukraine would not need to launch anti-aircraft missiles if it were not attacked by Russia.

“Most” G20 countries condemned Russia’s war of aggression – including China

Scholz pointed out that at the G20 summit “everyone expressed together” that “this war is coming to an end”, that Russia should withdraw its troops “and stop these brutal attacks”. However, that was at least a somewhat abbreviated interpretation of the summit results up to that point.

In fact, at the G20 meeting the day before, a surprisingly critical assessment of Russia’s actions emerged. Even before the start of the meeting, the negotiators of the states agreed on a draft for the final document, which mentions the war in Ukraine – a term that Russia had always rejected. According to the text, this war is condemned “strongly” by “most” G20 countries.

According to insiders, after it was clear that China would also support the text, the Russian side decided not to vote against the draft, apparently to avoid a 19-1 result documenting Russia’s isolation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who represented President Vladimir Putin in Bali, said that at the instigation of Russia the text also stated that there were different opinions on the war in Ukraine. Thus, the unanimity was not in condemning Russia, but in stating that most of the summit states were calling for an end to the war.

For the first session of the summit, Indonesian host Joko Widodo invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to address the participants via video. Lavrov stayed in the room during the speech, which participants described as very poignant. The Russian Foreign Minister later reported that he had spoken to Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the meeting. Scholz later made it clear: “He was standing near me and also said two sentences. That was the conversation.” From the French side it is said that there was “no exchange”. Lavrov attended the banquet, but left in the evening.

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