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No more groupism

india Updated: May 31, 2007 23:49 IST
No more groupism

The G8 Summit commences in Heiligendamm in Germany on June 6. Last year’s summit in St Petersburg reflected Russia’s view on G8 priorities. Moscow wants to ensure the continuity of G8 efforts.

Energy remains high on the agenda. The Russian participants in the recent conference on energy effectiveness emphasised that they considered the summit to be the continuation of the dialogue on sustainable development and global energy security. This is not an easy subject for Russia. The energy intensity of its economy is twice that of the United States and thrice that of Europe and Japan. For this reason, Moscow should demonstrate to its partners its ability to steadily and effectively reduce the gap. Moreover, this problem is linked with major challenges of the German G8 presidency — prevention of climate change and protection of the environment — on which Moscow has occupied a proactive position.

Another problem is that Russia has again been accused of using energy as a political weapon. Here, as in everything else, every side has its own truth. Consumers want to depend less on suppliers, and the latter want to make the most of their market advantages. During this year, the positions of G8 countries have clashed more than once. They have different views on the energy transit conflict between Moscow and Minsk. Russia has said a final no to the European Union on the Energy Charter and President Vladimir Putin agreed with his Turkmen, Kazakh and Uzbek counterparts to build a Caspian gas pipeline through Russian territory in response to the European Union strategy of diversifying energy supplies.

These actions will determine the practical interests with which the eight leading industrialised countries will come to the summit. But a G8 summit is not an arena of confrontation. Its participants pursue the opposite goal — to evaluate global trends and risks, and to map out a common strategy. The key words here are interdependence, transparency and partnership. At the G8 summit, Russia is not a rival but a member of the committee dealing with the future. Appeals to return to the G7 format testify to global irresponsibility.

Russia is also playing a major role in G8 efforts to ensure environmental protection, climate control, sustainable development, security and stability. This suggests a serious question: is the G8 format adequate, now that other big and dynamic countries have the right to take part in the resolution of global issues? This primarily applies to China, a member of the UN Security Council, India and Brazil. Germany believes that an expansion of the club would be bad for it and the rest of the world.

Russia is not so categorical as it understands potential claimants. However, Moscow on the whole agrees with Germany and the other members. After all, it was very difficult even for Russia to join the group and some still see it as more of a political gesture than a practical imperative. But rejection of other key players is also risky as G8 effectiveness depends not so much on its decisions as on their support by the world community.

On the whole, the new formula is G8-plus, and this suits everyone. It allows other interested countries to take part in G8 efforts. Their participation is not limited to meetings before summits. This time, for instance, the growing economies — India and Mexico, and several African nations — have been invited to Heiligendamm.

Moscow does not favour tough regulation of G8 commitments. In this sense, it is closer to the US and China than to the EU. Russia believes that for many countries, voluntary commitments are better than accession to the treaties in which they are afraid to take part. In this context, the forthcoming summit will consider what steps could be taken after the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

Also, the vector of cooperation reinforced after September 11, 2001, is being increasingly weakened by unilateral actions that breed mutual mistrust and even deterrence. The G8 summit is a good opportunity for considering this problem as a global challenge and agreeing on a common response. The G8 club is an institution that will not be able to function if the logic of a zero-sum game is brought back on the table.


Dmitri Danilov, Head, the European Security Department, the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences RIA Novosti