The G7 ‘snub’ to Russia really reveals the cracks behind the facade as America desperately tries to gain a broad alliance to support its misguided Ukrainian crusade.
We’ve all been there, sitting in the playground and when it comes to somebody’s birthday party, unprecedented kindergarten power is vested in the hands of the 7 year-old. There is a wondrous flurry of power distributing invitations across a packed playground and happy recipients excitedly rip open the envelopes to discern the wondrous party venue.
Then again the ultimate flourish of kindergarten power is the snub: having wandered through the playground dispensing party largesse, the upcoming birthday boy turns to the assembled multitude and publicly snubs another pupil with those cruel words: “you’re not invited.”
The G7 having once been headed for Sochi as its modern incarnation the G8 has undergone a deflationary move. Instead of pulsating revitalized Sochi, a western rump plus Japan are meeting in Brussels - at least it is handy for those “silent” G7/G8 members the EU’s various Presidents.
The G8 has been (temporarily) reduced from 8 to 7 members driven by the deteriorating Ukrainian situation. Meanwhile, the "basketballer" in chief has prattled on for weeks advocating the need for dialogue to resolve the increasing problems in Ukraine since the western attempts to encourage the Maidan demonstrators with (unfulfilled) offers of EU milk and honey have spiraled out of control. Surely we need to have all parties represented particularly Russia, given that Ukraine is its neighbor with a very significant Russian minority population? Helicopter government from Washington rarely succeeds after all. Instead the White House stresses the need for dialogue and calm, and then supports Russian exclusion from the G8. This is confusing to the point of oxymoron, to say the least. At the same time, the foreign policy of Barack Obama is based, as we all recall, on a massive pivot east - this is clearly why he was out and about in Warsaw this week promising to spend other people’s money on bolstering European defence. The sad truth is that Mr Obama remains an embarrassment as President with an entirely incontinent foreign policy and an outmoded, parochial understanding of the world.
Meanwhile the apparent strength of the G7 decision to disinvite Russia and move the summit is hardly driven by strength. Rather, the USA is keen to impose all manner of sanctions on Russia which will barely touch US corporations. Unsurprisingly, the Europeans who have the lion’s share of trade with Russia are reluctant to comply. Thus the G7 meeting in Brussels in many ways demonstrates the weakness of the west, not its unity. Behind closed doors, Mr Obama is left (largely fruitlessly) pursuing his unilateral agenda which appears to be more rooted in his love for JFK’s Camelot of 50 years ago than realpolitik of the digital world.
Thus France is unwilling to stop exporting its ships to the Russian navy because, let’s face it, President Hollande needs a miracle to be re-elected and sacking thousands in shipyards will seal his fate. Even the allegedly strongest leader in Europe, Mrs Merkel, is under unprecedented attack from her backbenchers who are desperate to see Germany’s economic output continuing to reach consumers throughout Russia. Italy is utterly apathetic about the concept of sanctions while Japan has been toeing the western club line but behind the scenes is clearly keen to enhance trade links with Russia, as they need to maintain a plural relationship with a nation whose recent gas deal with China has demonstrated that the real pivot is Russia to the east.
...And there’s the rub. President Obama is pushing a really successful eastern pivot strategy; the tricky bit is it’s helping Russia make the pivot while the USA remains stuck in foreign policy limbo. Meanwhile behind closed doors western governments are still bristling about the extent of NSA spying on America’s, er, allies.
On Friday 6th June, many world leaders will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which helped accelerate the end of World War II. Mr Putin is in great demand for meetings with western leaders. Thank goodness they are keeping the dialogue going across the continent that begins in Europe and ends in Asia. That the USA has abrogated its responsibility to be a world leader by playing manipulative narrow minded politics for its own ends, may yet prove a sad epitaph on the dithering, dismal presidency of Mr Obama. World power shifted east under his watch but he was not part of the pivot.
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