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Keeping the world’s democracies inside the western tent is a challenge for the G7, experts say

While the topic might not be on the formal, written agenda, or in any of the many programs and sideshows, foreign policy experts say the desire to keep the world’s non-aligned democracies firmly within the western tent will be a preoccupation of G7 leaders when they meet at the end of this week. 

Partner nations have to ‘consolidate the democracies’ against an authoritarian tide, says ex-diplomat.

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, France's President Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Queen Elizabeth attend a drinks reception on the sidelines of the G7 summit, at the Eden Project in Cornwall, Britain June 11, 2021. Jack Hill/Pool via REUTERS

While the topic might not be on the formal, written agenda, or in any of the many programs and sideshows, foreign policy experts say the desire to keep the world’s non-aligned democracies firmly within the western tent will be a preoccupation of G7 leaders when they meet at the end of this week.

India and Brazil are among the countries invited to observe this year’s annual summit of the leading advanced democratic economies in Hiroshima, Japan.

Both of those nations are members of the BRICS group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The BRICS group has been positioning itself as a potential alternative — even a rival — to the almost 50-year-old G7 group (the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan).

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said the challenge for leaders at this summit and in the coming year will be to “consolidate the democracies” against rising authoritarianism at a time when emerging economies in the southern hemisphere don’t want to declare allegiance.

Brazil, he said, is worth watching because “their biggest trading partner right now is China and they want to remain very much an independent voice, a leader within the global south.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves Monday for the summit. He’ll be making a bilateral visit to South Korea ahead of the G7 gathering.

Canada has an important role to play in engaging with countries like India that have kept up relations and trade with Russia, despite the West’s determination to punish Moscow for invading Ukraine, said Roland Paris, a professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa.

“I think the [G7 leaders’] hope is that those major emerging countries will move toward greater isolation of Russia, or at the very least not support Russia,” said Paris, who advised Trudeau on foreign policy early in the current government’s tenure.

“I think that there’s a simultaneous attempt here to both assert a strong position among the core G7 countries on Russia and China while also reaching out to countries like India and Brazil to try to keep them inside the tent … to persuade them to the greatest degree possible to support these strategic goals.”

A battle for the allegiance of emerging economies

Paris said the challenge for western leaders is to draw “large emerging countries of the global south into the discourse about Russia and China instead of excluding them.

“Because there is, in fact, a competition taking place right now, between Russia and China on one side and the non-geographic West on the other, to try to win over these [emerging economies].”

Gordon Houlden, director emeritus of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, said he hopes Trudeau secures a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the G7 sidelines to press the G7 case with a fellow Commonwealth nation.

Expectations for that meeting should be modest, he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave during a family photo with Partner Countries and International Organizations at the G7 Summit in Schloss Elmau on Monday, June 27, 2022.

“India is not going to be pried away from Russia,” said Houlden, a former diplomat. He noted that Moscow is an “arms supplier, energy supplier [and] longstanding friend” of India.

“They may, in my view, tailor their views to the circumstances, but don’t think that India is going to be thoroughly aligned with the G7.”

The discussions with India are especially pertinent given how the war in Ukraine is expected to be a major topic at the summit.

Foreign policy experts in the U.S. and Canada say they don’t expect to see another major wave of sanctions aimed at Russia coming out of the G7. Rather, they expect to see the leaders focus on enforcing existing penalties.

Plugging the leaks in the sanctions regime

Canadian foreign policy officials, speaking on background Friday, downplayed the idea that sanctions enforcement will take up a lot of time at the G7 table, despite lobbying by Ukraine for a tougher stand.

The officials insisted the sanctions are working to undermine Russia’s ability to prosecute the war. But the sanctions regime isn’t waterproof.

“There is leakage and that leakage is because of deliberate evasion” of sanctions by some countries, said one senior official.

“I actually don’t anticipate a lot of discussion on this issue because it’s a thing that has been discussed on an ongoing basis.”

On Friday, the United States accused South Africa of shipping arms to Russia in violation of the sanctions. It’s something Washington has been raising privately for months with the government in Pretoria, which has said it is investigating.

“In the shorter term,” said Matthew Goodman, the director of the economics program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, the central focus of the G7 leaders deliberations will be “Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine.”

“That’s going to be the top issue on the list,” he said.

Goodman said the state of the global economy and efforts to boost growth and tamp down inflation are other major points of discussion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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