Monday, July 10, 2006

Emerging Challenges: Previewing the G-8 Meeting in Russia

Thursday, July 6, 2006 10:00-11:30am

Carlos Pascual, VP and Director, Foreign Policy Studies at The Brookings Institution,
Kenneth Pollack, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies at The Brookings Institution,
Clifford Gaddy, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies and Global Economy and Development at The Brookings Institution,
Johannes Linn, Executive Director, The Wolfensohn Initiative Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development at The Brookings Institution.

This Brookings Institution Briefing analyzed the upcoming G8 summit in Russia. The panelists discussed Russia’s position in the G8, the potential results of this meeting, as well as the future of the G8 body. The current G8 began as the Group of Major Industrial Democracies (G7), with Russia joining later to form the G8. Russia, however, is not a mature democracy. As a result, Russia’s interests may differ from the interests of the seven major industrial democracies. In fact, Clifford Gaddy argued, the rest of the G8 countries regret inviting Russia into the G8. The summit in Russia, however, will most likely not focus on Russia’s internal issues. Instead, Iranian and North Korean nuclear capabilities, as well as international energy and security issues, will probably take the focus away from Russia. Additionally, Carlos Pascual believes that pushing Russia to an extreme will cause a counter-productive nationalist reaction in Russia.
The panel also discussed the prospects for this year’s G8 summit. The summit will most likely not address Russia’s policies on energy, civil liberties, and its neighbors, despite the importance of Russian internal issues. Instead, the meetings will probably focus on energy security, the recent North Korean missile firings, and the emergence of Iran as a potential nuclear threat. Energy security, however, cannot adequately be addressed by the G8. As Clifford Gaddy noted, most of the world’s energy suppliers are not represented in G8 negotiations. Russia cannot represent the interests of the world’s oil producers. Similarly, many key energy consumers, including China and India, are not represented. Next, China, a key player in negotiations with North Korea and Iran, is not represented in the talks. The G8 cannot effectively act on its concerns with North Korea and Iran without including China. Finally, Russia does not like the idea of sanctioning North Korea or Iran, and the world no longer has strong financial leverage with Russia. Six years ago, Russia had enormous IMF debts. Today, however, Russia has virtually no debt and over $300 billion in assets. As a result, Russia can more effectively resist foreign pressures and may hold up G8 negotiations. According to Carlos Pascual, a successful G8 would recognize an increasing need for international cooporation and give the next G8 summit a mandate to take action on specific international problems. The alternative, pretending to take action on currently unsolvable issues, would hurt the G8 and fail to address important international issues.
Finally, Johannes Linn spoke about potential G8 transformations. The G8, Linn argued, cannot effectively or legitimately deal with many international issues because key players are missing. For example, nonproliferation discussions do not include China, and epidemic threat discussions do not include Africa or India. Also, important topics, including financial imbalances, the World Trade Organization crisis, and environmental issues, are not currently on the table. Linn believes the G8 has two options for reform. First, the G8 could return to its original function as a club of democracies. However, this G8 would not be able to address many important issues because key actors would not be at the table. Alternatively, the G8 could become more inclusive. Linn mentioned a possible G20 including 90% of the world economy that would include key actors for most international issues. While Linn believes the G8 will not reform quickly, the G8 must change in the next five years for it to remain relevant.

by Adam Perry

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