Zelensky tries to charm pro-Russian Indonesians

JAKARTA — Billed as “President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to Indonesia,” it was an opportunity for the embattled Ukrainian leader to try to change the minds of many Indonesians, whose prejudices against the West have found them squarely on the side of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It is doubtful that the May 27 webinar of the Indonesian Foreign Policy Community (FPCI) achieved this goal, but a clearly irritated Zelensky posed a question to Deputy Speaker of Parliament Muhaimin Iskander when questioned about his willingness to compromise with Russia.

“What is the main thing for you to keep your country independent?” the Ukrainian leader asked the competing chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB). “And as soon as you answer this question yourself, you will understand our result.”

Wearing his trademark military-style t-shirt, he continued: “We want to live in our own country, we don’t want anyone’s territory, we don’t want anything from anyone and we’re not going to go to war with the land of other countries.

Zelensky said Russia “shoot first, then say okay, we’re ready to talk compromise, let’s have a negotiation. That’s how terrorists do it. They say we can’t see you in the EU and they shoot at us, we can’t see you in NATO and they shoot at us.

The founder and chairman of the FPCI, former Indonesian ambassador to Washington Dino Djalal, then sought to persuade Indonesians that they should not let their prejudices against the United States and the European Union blind them to the parallels with their own story.

Concluding the session, the host compared the Russian assault on Ukraine to Indonesia’s struggle for independence from Dutch rule in the late 1940s and the value its people place on preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“If this has taught us anything, it’s that no foreign power, no matter how powerful, can ever contain or subjugate the free will of the people of another country,” said Belgrade-born Djalal. “I think history is full of those lessons.”

Sukarno declaring Indonesian independence at 10 a.m. on Friday August 17, 1945. Photo: WikiCommons

“A War of Independence”

The Ukrainian President has returned to this same theme several times. “It’s a war of independence,” he said. “You have to fight because everything has a price and that’s how it is. This war will end when we gain our independence.

“Russia doesn’t want to let Ukraine live freely because it doesn’t believe Ukraine is an independent nation. It is also said in the constitution that it is the Ukrainian people who decide independently on their political orientation.

The ongoing war has become a major talking point in a country far removed from the conflict, with conservative Muslims in particular still chafing at what they see as the West’s war on Islam and its unequal treatment of the Palestinian question.

Numerous commentaries and editorials describe the Russian attack as justified, sparked by perceived efforts to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to Eastern Europe. As one social media critic put it: “Ukraine is a puppet and proxy of the West.”

Zelensky argued that Ukraine has never been part of any bloc, telling his audience: “Ukraine has decided on its own to go in the direction of the European Union. Believe me, that was at the heart of the two recent revolutions in Ukraine.

On the prospect of negotiations, he said: “The only reason to meet Putin is for a return to a peaceful life and to avoid a food crisis,” he said. “There are things to discuss with the Russian leader. We don’t want to talk to him, but we have to face reality. We all want our lives back and we want to live, not just exist.

Zelensky previously described the war’s impact on Ukraine’s wheat exports, noting that 22 million tons of grain are stored in silos across the country because Russia has blocked all Ukrainian sea ports. Black. Shipping it by rail to European ports is now the only way out.

Sending it by rail to European ports is now the only choice, but although 80% of the country’s farmland remains under Ukrainian control, there have so far been no major shipments of wheat or seeds. sunflower to the outside world since the start of the war.

Indonesia’s 30 flour mills, which accounted for the bulk of the three million tonnes imported from Ukraine in 2021, are now looking for alternative sources to fuel the massive instant noodle industry.

Frankly, Welilang, president of the Indonesian Wheat Flour Mills Association (Aptindo), says a tight market and exorbitant prices are already making it difficult for the world’s largest wheat importer, which imported about 10 million tons last year.

Other traditional exporters have cut shipments to keep domestic prices from skyrocketing, with the United Nations warning that 40 to 50 million people could face hunger this year, a figure Zelensky called conservative.

Questions remain over whether US President Joe Biden or Vladimir Putin will attend the G20 in Bali. Photos: AFP / Jim Watson and Grigory Dukor

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“Already in July, many countries will see their stocks run out,” he said. “The crisis is approaching. You will see prices rise, bringing misery to those who are already poor. This will lead to a political crisis in some regions.

Against this backdrop, the war left October’s G20 summit in Bali on hold, with most Western partners threatening to boycott the rally if Putin attends, as he claimed despite widespread skepticism.

Keen to keep the summit on track and showcase Indonesia as an investment destination, President Joko Widodo invited Zelensky to Bali, taking US President Joe Biden at his word that he would come if the two warring sides were the.

The White House later backed away from Biden’s off-the-cuff remarks, saying that wouldn’t be enough to secure his presence. Zelensky indicated that he would not make the trip anyway while the war was raging.

“I can’t leave Ukraine and I can’t go anywhere in person because I stay with my people,” he said. “They need my support and I need their support here. I will join you if there is no war. If there is still a war, it can be done online if your leadership can accept this option.

This seems to rule out any idea that Indonesian officials could have used the summit as a negotiating platform, apparently hoping that by the fall the two exhausted sides will seek an opportunity to end the conflict.

While Britain and the European Union members of the G20 have made it clear that they do not want to be in the same room as Putin, Zelensky also made it clear: “I believe that only Friendly states, partner states, will attend the summit and there will be no occupiers or aggressors.