In a three questions with, the Visiting Professor at the Centre for International Security asseses potential impact ahead of meeting.
1. The motto of this year’s G7 Summit is "Progress for a Just World". Facing the war in Ukraine, climate change and the pandemic, fairness seems almost unattainable. What can the summit achieve?
Indeed, the motto seems idealistic, but the summit can signal that leaders of the world’s richest economies are united in their efforts to solve the world’s most pressing problems and contribute to a just world. In view of Russia's unprovoked aggression in Ukraine, the unity of the Western world is essential. The international security order has been violated and Russia’s actions have created the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. And the war has brought global socio-economic consequences, like rising energy and food prices. A swift end seems unlikely and the challenges will grow, testing the resilience of Western democracies, already weakened by the economic repercussions of the pandemic. At the same time, the rupture of global supply chains is severely affecting vulnerable countries, which cannot cope with these disruptions without the support of advanced economies that are part of the G7. Thus, the united and strong voice of G7 leaders is so important.
We also face other global challenges that require decisive action, climate change being the most significant. Chancellor Scholz already proposed an informal Climate Club during the summit, as an inclusive form of cooperation between like-minded countries willing to accelerate reduction of fossil fuel usage and speed up the transition to clean energy.
2. Germany is the host country of the 2022 summit. What significance does the summit have for German foreign and security policy?
The widely heralded “Zeitenwende” (turning point) in German foreign and security policy has proven slow to roll out, and the lethargic pace of the government's response to the war in Ukraine, along with continuing ambiguities over arms exports, mean that Germany is not seen as Europe's leader in assisting Ukraine. The summit gives Berlin the opportunity to demonstrate decisive leadership regarding the war and its commitment to strengthening multilateralism, which has been challenged by the current geopolitical realities. Thus, a successful G7 Summit could restore Germany's tarnished reputation as a reliable ally in the view of US partners, Ukraine and the countries on NATO’s Eastern flank. Furthermore, if the G7 leaders succeed in taking a firm stance on how to treat Russia and support Ukraine, it could boost German public opinion, which is still divided on many issues regarding Berlin's involvement in military conflicts abroad. Participation in the multilateral response may boost citizens’ support for Germany’s more active role for Germany in providing security in Europe.
3. Since the exclusion of Russia from the G7 in 2014, Western heads of state and government have been meeting among themselves. Can the meeting achieve anything in view of the war in Ukraine?
As I mentioned, unity among Western leaders in support of Ukraine is one reason, but I also see several pressing issues for the summit, related to the war.
The first is the reinforcement of Russia's economic isolation. Sanctions need time, and we are slowly starting to see their impact on the Russian financial sector, trade, defence, technology and energy exports, although there is certainly still a lot to do. In May, G7 leaders committed to phase out or ban Russian oil imports, but this must now be implemented. This will take time and effort since alternative supplies have to be secured. But there is no turning back from this policy if the West is serious about stopping funding the war with its payments for Russian oil and gas.
At the same time, there are limits to the effectiveness of bilateral sanctions imposed by the European Union, USA and Canada, and supported by other G7 partners, especially as China continues to undermine them and justify Russian aggression in Ukraine. Thus, G7 leaders should use the summit to put pressure on China, following up on the G7 foreign ministers’ statement in May. Such message would be of great importance if supported by the leaders of Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa who will participate in the summit as guests.
Another area for G7 leaders to consider is some kind of a “Marshall Plan for Ukraine” once the war ends. The scale of the Russian invasion is unprecedented. Critical infrastructure across Ukraine has been destroyed and traditional shipping routes for exports cut off, putting Ukraine’s macroeconomic stability at great risk. At the same time, an economically devastated country will be more vulnerable to destabilizing political pressures after the war, which is why a rapid and coordinated economic reconstruction of Ukraine is so important. This discussion should start now, and the G7, as an informal organisation of the world’s richest economies, seems predestined for this.
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