An unplanned encounter between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart broke out at the G20 summit in India on Thursday.
It may have been triggered by a desire to deflect from the Biden administration’s abysmal record of dealing with authoritarian regimes. Either way, it was the first face-to-face meeting between the two since Russia’s Feb. 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
The last was in Jan. 2022.
Blinken reportedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to “end the war of aggression” against Ukraine. He also said during the conversation that lasted under 10 minutes that the U.S. is supporting Kyiv for as long as it takes.
A senior State Department official did not comment on how Lavrov responded but did say there was no indication that Russia will pursue a different policy in the near future.
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Blinken asked to speak with Lavrov at the Delhi summit.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that he had confronted Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, in a brief one-on-one meeting at the G20 summit and demanded that Russia end its “war of aggression” against Ukraine. https://t.co/yexPz5Dhr1
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 2, 2023
After the talks, Blinken told a briefing that he urged Lavrov, as have many G20 ministers, to “end this war of aggression (and) engage in meaningful diplomacy that can produce a just and lasting peace.”
The secretary also told his Russian counterpart that Moscow needed to rejoin the New START nuclear arms control treaty. He described the Kremlin’s recent decision to suspend its participation as “irresponsible.”
Maria Zahkarova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, confirmed the two leaders met but did not reveal details.
The Times of India previously reported that it was believed that a meeting between the two men was “unlikely.” The last time they were in a room together was at the G20 meeting in Bali last July.
Western officials reported that Lavrov walked out.
The Russian contingent lashed out at the West — and the U.S. in particular — in the days leading up to the G20 summit. The Kremlin asserted that new sanctions are merely “revenge for the inevitable disappearance of the levers of dominance from its hands.”
And before their encounter in India, Lavrov on Thursday blasted Western nations for attempting to push neutral states to condemn his country’s invasion of Ukraine. He accused the West of attempting “to push everyone and everything.”
He further charged the West with encouraging Kyiv to continue the war.
The G20 consists of the world’s 19 wealthiest nations and the European Union. As a block, it produces 85% of the global economic output and contains two-thirds of the world’s population.