August 27, 2019
IntelBrief: Disarray at the G7
Early this week, leaders of the Group of 7 advanced industrialized countries, or G7, concluded several days of meetings in Biarritz, France. The group was previously known as the G8, but Russia was removed from the organization following its illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Since then, Russia has solidified its hold on Crimea and continued to arm and support separatists in eastern Ukraine. With Russian President Vladimir Putin determined to rebuild Russia into a legitimate great power, sanctions have failed to convince the Kremlin to change its behavior, thus leaving Moscow outside of the G7. U.S. President Donald Trump has been clear about his desire that Russia be readmitted into the group, although European leaders have taken a harder line.
President Trump spent a significant amount of his time at the conference on social media, where he denounced reports of disarray at the summit as ‘fake news.’ Trump tweeted that several of the world leaders at the summit ‘think the USA is doing so well and is stronger than ever before’ and asked him why the American media ‘hates’ the United States and ‘wants it to fail.’ Many people are highly skeptical that these alleged exchanges ever occurred. Next year, the United States will host a meeting of the G7, which could allow an opening for Trump to invite Putin to attend, even over the objection of other group members. Another curveball during the conference was the unannounced visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif—invited by France to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. Zarif reportedly did not meet with President Trump during his brief stay. French President Emmanuel Macron is now attempting to arrange a meeting between President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the coming weeks.
The G7 agenda included a focus on climate change, an area where the Trump administration and most G7 countries are at odds. The U.S. government continues to promote the use of coal even as carbon limits in the atmosphere have passed critical levels and the polar regions are experiencing record warmth and melting. Addressing climate change requires a comprehensive global response that mitigates the damage already wrought to the environment, as well as the ancillary effects that may lead to food scarcity and conflicts over critical natural resources. Europe has continued to demonstrate crucial leadership in this area, as Macron pushed climate change as a major priority, raising concerns over ongoing fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. Macron offered support to Brazil to help combat the fires, while also criticizing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for his lack of leadership.
The Trump administration’s preference for bilateral ‘deals’ over working cooperatively through multilateral organizations featured prominently at the G7 summit. President Trump’s disdain for consensus often translates into being at odds with some of America’s closest allies on issues ranging from climate change to negotiating with Iran. Trump’s focus on the transactional aspects of every issue—the goal of ‘America First’ at all costs—has damaged long-standing ties with allies and key institutions in which the United States has long played a leading role. The abdication of American leadership in global institutions has opened the door for others to play a more active role in world affairs, which has led to a shifting realignment of the international system and greater uncertainty over the future of multilateral policy efforts.
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