This note contains some first impressions of the "Summit of the Eight" held at Denver, Colorado, on 20-22 June 1997. It is based on the summit documents, supplemented by press briefings and some contact with Canadian and British officials.
This was the first summit of the eight, so called because the Russians took part alongside the G7 participants from the outset. The main summit communiqué was issued by the eight and covered all the global issues and foreign policy topics, as well as some economic subjects, notably Africa. There was a separate G7 statement on the rest of the economic agenda - see below.
The symbolism for the Russians was strong. The move has already brought short- term dividends, as it helped to reconcile Russia to NATO enlargement. In substance it was less of a change, as the Russians already took part in the discussion of foreign policy and global issues and were associated with the documents issued. They did not have much to add on any economic subject. The leaders' discussions with Yeltsin present lost some of their informality -- when he spoke, he seemed to be addressing them, rather than taking part in a conversation. It will take time for the Russians to adapt to this mode -- but it did for the Japanese.
Contrary to some fears, the Russian presence did not emasculate the economic part of the summit. Next year's Birmingham summit will focus on employment -- an economic theme -- with the Russians fully involved in the preparations. The economic G7 remains very much in being, especially at the finance minister level. (A Russian journalist spoke ruefully of G8-1.) While the foreign ministers met with Primakov always present, Chubais did not join the G7 finance ministers, except over one lunch. The G7 leaders had a short meeting without Yeltsin and issued a substantial document.
Even so it is likely that, over time, adding the Russians will shift the summit away from economic to political and global issues. There could be tension in the future over what is done with the Russians present and what without them. The G7 finance ministers may well become more detached from the summit proper -- as has been happening since 1986. It will be harder for the summit to give strong impulses to the finance ministers or resolve matters which cannot be settled at their lower level.
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