Joko Widodo of Indonesia, Reluctant Global Statesman

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BALI, Indonesia — Four months aft Russia invaded Ukraine, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia tried to technologist détente.

He traveled to Ukraine to conscionable with President Volodomyr Zelensky, offering to bring a connection to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Then, helium flew to Russia, wherever helium urged Mr. Putin to commencement a dialog with Mr. Zelensky.

Beneath the calls for peace, Mr. Joko had different pressing issue: Russia had blocked wheat shipments and restricted the exports of fertilizer. Ukraine is Indonesia’s second-largest root of wheat, ostentation was soaring, and Indonesian farmers were complaining astir the rising terms of fertilizer.

In the end, Mr. Joko did not marque large breakthroughs, but for pressuring Mr. Putin not to artifact nutrient and fertilizer supplies. But astatine home, the travel was good received, with front-page stories lauding Mr. Joko for being the archetypal Asian person to question to Russia and Ukraine since the warfare began, and suggestions from his supporters that Mr. Joko should gain the Nobel Peace Prize.


President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and his Indonesian counterpart, Mr. Joko,  met successful Kyiv successful June.
Credit...Ukrainian statesmanlike property service, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In galore ways, Mr. Joko is an improbable geopolitical emissary. For astir of his 8 years successful office, his overseas argumentation strategy has been astir delivering factual gains for the 276 cardinal Indonesians astatine home, focusing chiefly connected tourism and concern deals.

But this year, the stakes are higher. Mr. Joko has pinned his bequest connected economical maturation and is good alert that the warfare successful Ukraine could derail his gains, arsenic helium nears the extremity of his 2nd and past word successful office. This week, helium is chairing the Group of 20 summit of planetary leaders, which helium described successful an interrogation with The New York Times as possibly the “most difficult” 1 yet, fixed the broader governmental climate.

After overmuch back-and-forth, Mr. Putin has yet said helium is not coming, according to Russian authorities media. Mr. Joko said the Russian president told him that helium would travel lone if “the conditions” were right. For a time, it seemed similar Western leaders would boycott the acme if Mr. Putin did show. Tensions betwixt the United States and China are at their highest successful caller years.

Mr. Joko, by inheritance and inclination, is not a overseas argumentation president. A soft-spoken antheral with a self-effacing manner, Mr. Joko upended authorities successful Indonesia erstwhile helium was elected president successful 2014. In him, the mediate people saw the committedness of a caller beginning, the archetypal president with nary connections to the Jakarta elite oregon the military.


Credit...Oscar Siagian/Getty Images

A erstwhile furnishings exporter, Mr. Joko runs his medication similar a business. In his archetypal year, helium told his civilian servants to absorption connected “down to earth” diplomacy, instructing them to summation investments and exports. Diplomats were assessed based connected their “deliverables” and were told to behaviour commercialized fairs and bring successful much tourists.

When Mr. Joko was recently elected successful 2014, his overseas argumentation advisers had to transportation him that it was important to amusement up astatine his archetypal G20 summit.

“He was much practical,” said Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, the president of Indonesia’s nationalist quality agency, LKBN Antara. “He was like: ‘OK, wherefore should I be a gathering of 20 heads of authorities erstwhile we’re conscionable sitting astir truly doing nothing?”

In the interrogation with the Times successful the Indonesian land of Bali, wherever the G20 is acceptable to instrumentality place, Mr. Joko said his priorities backmost past were home stableness and increasing the economy.

“Foreign argumentation is an hold of the concern astatine home,” helium said.

Mr. Joko has ne'er attended a gathering astatine the United Nations. Asked why, helium said with a laugh, “Because I similar existent and factual results.” He added that helium sends his overseas minister, Retno Marsudi, regularly to the U.N. and is successful regular interaction with the U.N. Secretary-General, António Guterres.

“It’s a missed accidental for Jokowi himself,” said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a probe prof astatine the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, adding it was important for Indonesia to “be counted.” But, Professor Dewi Fortuna said, “He doesn’t care, helium doesn’t person an ambition to play to the planetary stage.”

A effect is that Indonesia, nether Mr. Joko, has go overmuch much insular.

Under Mr. Joko’s predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia utilized to beryllium seen arsenic the de facto caput of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and played a important relation successful establishing assorted institutions and norms astir ideology and quality rights.

By contrast, Mr. Joko has focused connected home priorities.

He becomes animated erstwhile talking astir nickel investments and Indonesia’s plans for reforestation, rattling disconnected numbers from memory, portion his overseas argumentation answers are much stilted and scripted.


Credit...Ulet Ifansasti for The New York Times

A 2021 survey of immoderate 3,000 Indonesians showed that the bulk wanted the authorities to absorption connected jobs and the system and keeping citizens harmless overseas. Indonesia’s system is acceptable to grow astatine astir 5.4 percent this year. He is polling adjacent to 70 percent, connected way to go the astir fashionable Indonesian president ever erstwhile helium leaves office.

Mr. Joko is celebrated for his hands-on attack — what is known successful Indonesia arsenic blusukan — and is often seen personally inspecting toll bridges and roads, dressed successful his trademark achromatic shirt, sleeves rolled up, and achromatic sneakers. He precocious stood successful the driveway of a Bali hotel, watching authoritative cars thrust done arsenic portion of the rehearsals for the G20.

When asked wherefore helium felt the president of Indonesia had to measure diplomatic protocol, Mr. Joko said helium was acrophobic astir “not lone the macro, but besides the micro.” He past talked astir however helium curbed ostentation successful October by telling the country’s mayors, main regents and governors to screen the costs of the proscription of atom and chili from the shaper to the consumer.

“This means detail,” Mr. Joko said. “Not lone micro, but details, and going to the spot of the problem.”


Credit...Ulet Ifansasti for The New York Times

During his 2nd term, Mr. Joko has shown a small much involvement successful planetary affairs by conducting respective shuttle diplomacy trips to places that had generated quality involvement backmost home. In 2018, helium traveled to a Muslim Rohingya exile campy successful Bangladesh’s Cox Bazaar.

During his travel to Ukraine, Mr. Joko’s Instagram relationship showed him visiting an flat analyzable successful the metropolis of Irpin that had been attacked by Russian force. His wife, Iriana, was photographed embracing a Ukrainian pistillate astatine an endocrine attraction and probe center.

Skeptics said Mr. Joko was simply engaging successful what is known successful Indonesia arsenic pencitraan, translated arsenic the authorities of image-building, and noted determination was often small follow-up from these trips.

“Between those 2 theories — is it conscionable for the ’gram, oregon is it to execute that much substantive planetary nationalist good,” said Aaron Connelly, a elder chap of Southeast Asian authorities astatine the International Institute for Strategic Studies successful Singapore,“I deliberation the greater grounds is that it was the former.”


Credit...Munir Uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Joko often sees overseas argumentation successful transactional terms, and helium has sought countries that would assistance him execute his goals. Infrastructure is simply a signature legacy, and helium recovered a consenting spouse successful China to assistance him deliver.

Throughout his clip successful office, Mr. Joko traveled to China 5 times. China is present the second-largest capitalist successful Indonesia aft Singapore, investing $5.2 cardinal successful the archetypal 9 months of this year, much than treble what the United States has enactment in.

Mr. Joko’s detractors accidental helium has resisted criticizing Beijing due to the fact that of these ties. His medication has sunk hundreds of overseas sportfishing boats that person been accused of poaching, though precise fewer from China.

Asked if helium recovered it hard to knock China, Mr. Joko said: “Indonesia wants stability.”


Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He said helium was “very worried” astir the escalating tensions betwixt the United States and China, and that helium had conveyed this connection to Xi Jinping, China’s apical leader, and President Biden. He said helium hoped the talks betwixt some leaders successful Bali could little tensions.

“If not managed, it tin pb to unfastened struggle oregon adjacent war,” Mr. Joko said.

When helium was successful Moscow, Mr. Joko said talking astir bid with Mr. Putin was “very difficult,” truthful helium switched to nutrient security. Mr. Putin utilized that accidental to sermon expanding concern and tourism. As Mr. Joko left, the bombings connected Ukraine intensified.

“I had thought that if it came from a state that Russia is comfy with, it would person immoderate impact,” said Indonesia’s erstwhile ambassador to the United States, Dino Patti Djalal, who had urged that Mr. Joko question confirmation from Mr. Putin that helium would not inhabit Ukraine. “He didn’t execute much.”


Credit...Pool photograph by Alexander Zemlianichenko

Mr. Joko said his travel to Russia resulted successful a shipment of wheat being released from Odessa to Istanbul, and that helium had spoken to Mr. Putin aggregate times aft the trip, astir precocious connected Nov. 1.

In Bali, Mr. Joko could soon find himself successful the uncomfortable presumption of heading a acme wherever a 3rd of the attendees would beryllium castigating Mr. Putin. Indonesia has ne'er called retired Russia for the invasion.

Many experts accidental fashionable enactment successful Indonesia for Russia was astir apt a large crushed for the silence. Much of it stems from disinformation, wide sentiment that Russia has been hemmed successful by NATO, and a wide feeling of absorption to the West.

During his hourlong trips betwixt his location successful Bogor and the superior of Jakarta, Mr. Joko said helium reads each the comments connected his societal media accounts, a barometer of sorts for nationalist sentiment. He said helium was alert of the enactment for Russia online, and that Indonesia has made its presumption wide by signing onto the U.N. solution connected the war.

“We’re not a state that does megaphone diplomacy,” said Mr. Suryodiningrat, the quality bureau president.

Reflecting connected his travel to Russia and Ukraine, Mr. Joko said his extremity was for bid and a humanitarian mission, “especially to forestall the nutrient crisis.”

Noting that the country’s Constitution mandates that Indonesians “must enactment successful the bid of the world,” helium said, “Indonesia wants to support contributing, to beryllium portion of the solution to span differences.”


Credit...Ulet Ifansasti for The New York Times

Muktita Suhartono contributed research.