Thursday, September 21

Response to Russia’s war in Ukraine dominates G7 summit | G7

Western leaders ended the three-day G7 summit in Germany promising to maintain and increase the economic and political costs to Vladimir Putin and his regime of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The German chancellor and chair of the G7, Olaf Scholz, made the pledge at a closing press conference in which he said the group stood together, united and unbreakable, adding: “It is important to stand together for this over the long distance, which will certainly be necessary.”

With the summit taking place at the same time as an attack on a kindergarten in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and a missile strike on a shopping center in Kremenchuk that killed at least 18 people and which the G7 described as a war crime, the leaders will hope the summit managed to show the resolve, unity and practical steps required to weaken the Russian president’s war machine. Scholz insisted the rest of the world was watching Putin’s brutal assault on the civilian population of Ukraine.

However, disagreements at the summit continued right until the end on the key issue of finding a way to reduce the flow of cash into the Kremlin from western consumption of Russian energy. Germany fears that a cap on the price of oil or gas would lead to a complete cut-off of Russian energy supplies, and European industrial meltdown as a consequence. Others, especially the Americans, say the plan is workable.

The G7 pledged “to take immediate action to secure energy supply and reduce price surges driven by extraordinary market conditions, including by exploring additional measures such as price caps”.

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The wording allows further work to be undertaken on complementary US ideas for an oil price cap and an Italian plan for a gas price cap. Russia has already warned of retaliation if the west tries to manipulate energy prices to below the market level.

The G7 leaders said they were moved by the video discussion with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which he called on the group to help end the war by the winter, reflecting both the attrition that Ukrainian soldiers are facing and a belief that heavier weaponry can help regain the ground that is steadily being lost in the Donbas. One G7 leader said: “Zelenskiy showed courage and realism about what lies ahead.”

Boris Johnson, who entered the summit warning that Russia is poised to annex more Ukrainian land if the status quo in the balance of forces continues, emerged slightly more optimistic that those who had been calling for an early settlement have been quietened, and that it has been accepted a sustained battle lies ahead.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, sometimes seen as the man most committed to a future long-term relationship with Russia, insisted the G7 would support Ukraine for as long as necessary. He was unconstrained in his criticism of Russian attacks on civilians, saying the strike on the Kremenchuk shopping center was a war crime and that Russia must not win the war.

The final communique said: “We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes, providing the needed financial, humanitarian, military, and diplomatic support in its courageous defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

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It also stressed that the G7 has pledged and provided $29.5bn (£24.1bn) in budget aid this year.

The confirmation that the US will provide a state-of-the-art surface-to-air missile defense system was probably the single biggest tangible development in terms of practical help.

At a summit normally dominated by issues of climate change, food security, global debt and pandemics, it was striking how little of the top-line discussion focused on these issues, even if the 28-page communique did address Scholz’s personal project of forming a “climate club” by the end of the year dedicated to achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

The other stated climate goals were “a highly decarbonised road sector by 2030, a fully or predominantly decarbonised power sector by 2035, and prioritizing concrete and timely steps towards the goal of accelerating phase-out of domestic unabated coal power”.

The wording allows wriggle room for Japan over the date by which it reaches emission-free vehicles, and also allows some flexibility for overseas investment in fossil fuels.

On food security, the G7 pledged an additional $4.5bn, way short of the UN World Food Program target.

Max Lawson, the head of inequality policy at Oxfam, said the funding was a fraction of the necessary minimum of $28.5bn extra: “Faced with the worst hunger crisis in a generation, the G7 have simply failed to take the action that is needed. Many millions will face terrible hunger and starvation as a result.

“Instead of doing what is needed, the G7 are leaving millions to starve and cooking the planet.”

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