Multipolar World // Analysis

18 march 2014

The G8 Summit 2014 in Sochi. Perspectives after Situation in Ukraine

The rapid development of situation in Ukraine led many G8 countries’ officials to show their concerns about the possibility of keeping the forum in a past format. We asked international experts to share their opinion on the consequences that situation in Ukraine may have on the G8 summit in Sochi and about the future of the summit as an effective platform for finding solutions to global political and economic challenges in general.

The RIAC panel includes:

William Antholis, Brookings: As someone working in the White House at the creation of the G8, I think we may have just seen it's ending

Steven Pifer, Brookings: It seems very unlikely that there will be a G8 summit in Sochi in June

Silvia Francescon, ECFR: I think the G8 still represents a fundamental forum for bilateral and multilateral dialogue

Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier, Thomas More Institute: The G7 still exists. In the past, it has been useful and will be again

 


William Antholis

William Antholis: As someone working in the White House at the creation of the G8, I think we may have just seen it's ending

Brookings, Managing Director, US

My basic answer: "As someone working in the White House at the creation of the G8, I think we may have just seen it's ending.  The chances of cancellation are very high.  And I do not think western leaders will travel to Sochi unless Russia decides to categorically reject the annexation of Crimea.  It is a shame.  The creation of the G8 was an innovative way of helping bring Russia into the community of industrial democracies.  That experiment seems to have failed."

 


Steven Pifer

Steven Pifer: It seems very unlikely that there will be a G8 summit in Sochi in June

Brookings, Director, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, Senior Fellow, US

It seems very unlikely that there will be a G8 summit in Sochi in June.  If Russia continues its military occupation of Crimea--or worse, proceeds to annex Crimea--then it will become impossible for Western leaders to take part in the summit.  Instead, there will likely be discussion in the West about ending  the G8 mechanism and reverting to a G7 without Russia.

In different circumstances, the G8 summit in Sochi might provide a platform for addressing ways to assist the political and economic situation in Ukraine and to help resolve the differences between Russia and Ukraine.  But getting to those different circumstances would likely require that Russia take some steps to restore Crimea's status as part of Ukraine, and it would require a dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv.  How could the G8 negotiate measures affecting Ukraine without Ukraine's participation?

 


Silvia Francescon

Silvia Francescon: I think the G8 still represents a fundamental forum for bilateral and multilateral dialogue

European Council on Foreign Relations, Head of the Rome Office, Italy

What consequences may situation in Ukraine have on the G8 summit in Sochi? How big is a chance of actually cancelling the 2014 summit?

 I think Russia will do everything in its position to have the Summit held. It’s a great chance of visibility but above all a great chance to remarks its position on several international issues. The last time Russia hosted a G8, the 32nd, was in 2006, at Saint Petersburg, 8 years ago in a different scenario, both fro an economic and a political point of view...(economic crisis, for example, was not felt yet).

The current situation reminds me of Georgia in 2008. At that time I was working at the G8 PM Office and I remember we suspended for a while all the sherpa meetings (i.e. the preparatory meetings) in the run up to the Hokkaido (Japan) Summit. Eventually the Summit was held regularly with Russia sitting on the table. The difference here is that the Summit would be hosted by Russia. 

It looks like the US Congress is determined to pursue this way, but I am not sure this will eventually happen. Everybody knows that we need to keep the dialogue with Russia alive and the G8 is a perfect platform for dialogue. Actually it is the perfect place from a political point of view, given that other themes (such as economy) are left almost entirely to other fora, such as the G20. This means that if the G8 still has a role, it has it on the political issues.

In addition, Russia is one of the main trading partners of many of G7 countries; it is the third trading partner of the EU and the EU is the first trading partner of Russia. Most important: the EU imports from Russia what it needs and lacks the most, energy. So,it won’t be so easy, especially for Europe, to close the doors in front of Russia’s face. Let’s just consider the fact that not all G7 leaders boycotted the Sochi Olympics game. This perfectly reflects what is the current state of relations: will global leaders be able to build up a common position against Russia? Or, like usually happens in international relations, they will just choose the easiest option?

We still have 4 months and events in Crimea and Ukraine may change every day. The situation is unstable and the crisis may still  have several outcomes. very difficult to predict now if Sochi will happen, but I think it would be wise to hold it.

Could the G8 summit in Sochi be an effective platform for negotiation of possible ways to solve the political and economic crisis in Ukraine?

As I said, If the G8 still has a role it has it on the political side. Germany, UK, France, Italy Commission are there from the European side, as well as the US. Italy is the country that worked very hard to have Russia in the G8 and actually the country that invited Russia. I would assume that it would keep this line, notwithstanding changes of governments

Does the G8 summit remain an important forum for identifying solutions to global challenges in international affairs?

As I said, Yes, it remains. Although the G8 is an "unofficial" forum, it brings together the heads of the 8 leading industrialized countries, among them 4 EU member states, 1 Asian  power, the US, Canada and of course Russia. We should also not forget that the European presence is reinforced, since 1981, by the participation of the EU Commission. And, representatives of other countries and international organizations usually are invited to attend it.  So, it represents an essential platform of dialogue for all the actors involved to face and deal with new global trends.

Most importantly it is a forum which is becoming more and more open to other countries reflecting the reality of a multipolar world.

While issues such as world economy, after the Pittsburg G20, are mostly a matter for the G20 and climate change and development are loosing momentum, political issues (prenegotiated by political directors and not the sherpas) are gaining strength in the G8 context. My experience also convinced me that discussing around a smaller table that host 8 leaders instead of many is much more effective.

In the past, many important decisions were taken and many relevant topics were under discussion  during G8 summits. In Deauville 2011 summit, $20 billion were pledged to Egypt and Tunisia to launch reforms; in the 2012 Camp David summit, the attention was pretty much focused on Europe, the debt’s crisis and a solution to it as well as on Syria, Iran and North Korea. In 2013 Lough Erne summit, the Syrian crisis dominated the agenda and the US and EU officially announced the start of trade negotiations. 

So, yes I think the G8 still represents a fundamental forum for bilateral and multilateral dialogue.

 


Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier

Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier: The G7 still exists. In the past, it has been useful and will be again

Research Fellow, Thomas More Institute, France

What consequences may situation in Ukraine have on the G8 summit in Sochi? How big is a chance of actually cancelling the 2014 summit?

This summit seems to be compromised in regard to the annexation of Crimea and the developments of the current geopolitical crisis around Ukraine. In fact, we should think that the Sochi summit is already cancelled. The next and relevant question would be rather about the future of the G8. The other member countries of the G8 may go back to the G7.

Could the G8 summit in Sochi be an effective platform for negotiation of possible ways to solve the political and economic crisis in Ukraine?

It would be hard think so. First of all, this summit could not be held in such a context. Secondly, the political and economic crisis in Ukraine turned into a geopolitical crisis between Russia and the West. The last events happened very quickly and we are far beyond the previous situation. Besides, the ball is still bouncing.

If a geopolitical raid upon Crimea had not happened those last days, the G8 as a platform may have been convenient. Now, there is no longer any confidence between the West and Russia. Thus, it seems hard to look for an agreement within the G8. More generally, this common framework was based on the idea that all of us shared the same basics and wanted to head in the same direction. In the last years, this global picture and now, it is vanished. “Gone with the wind”.

Does the G8 summit remain an important forum for identifying solutions to global challenges in international affairs?

After the last financial and economic crisis (2008), many political leaders, pundits and analysts thought that the G8 summit was just history: the future would belong to the G20. In fact, the G20 is very large, diverse and heterogeneous in many ways It has been useful to avoid the worst scenario and it may be yet, for a sort of brainstorming about the future of globalization. However, it is very difficult to decide and act in this framework. The G20 is rather a forum than an “executive board”

Thus, another framework is required in order to decide and act. The G7 still exists. In the past, it has been useful and will be again. The G7 is a club that gathers countries which share the same values and political and economic model (the rule of law, an open society and competitive political regime, a market economy). So, it is easier to practice a “diplomacy of club”, as they say, i.e. a diplomacy based on gentlemen’s agreements. 

Certainly, the G7 members should think of enlarging this club to new members like Australia, South Korea and a few others. Among them, we should think about Turkey. The future members of the G7+ could be co-opted among the OECD countries. However, not too many of them should be included. Otherwise, the G7+ would meet the same difficulties than the G20.

 

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“The G8 Summit 2014 in Sochi. Perspectives after Situation in Ukraine,” Russian International Affairs Council, 18 March 2014, http://russiancouncil.ru/en/inner/?id_4=3329

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