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The Role of the G7 in the Regional Integration - Global Security Link
John Kirton

G8 Governance No.2 (June 1997)

~ Statement of Editorial Policy ~ Editorial Advisory Board ~ Professional Advisory Council ~

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3. The Growing Demand for a G7 Global Security Role in the 1990's

In the post cold war world of the 1990's, despite, and in some respects because of, the rapid growth of regional economic and security organizations, there is an increasing demand for an effective centre of global governance to shape the international security order. Perhaps the primary security task in the form of a demand from the democratic states that now constitute over 40% of the countries in the international system, is to continue the democratic revolution by maintaining the move towards internally stable, pacific, democratic polities among the major and other consequential countries around the world. This requires mobilizing a preponderant set of rewards, reassurances, and, where appropriate, threats against a potentially recidivist or insecure and irresponsible Russia, whose shift towards the more oppositional authoritarian nationalism of Yevgeny Primakov or Alexander Lebed is a substantial second best to the policies Yeltsin has pursued. It further demands a similar blend of deterrent threat, accommodation and integration, vis a vis a fully recalcitrant China, aimed at engendering foreign policy responsibility and internal democratization as the difficult era of Hong Kong's reversion and leadership transition arrives. It calls for similar vigilance against a large array of war prone, often non-democratic middle powers, from Iraq and Iran, through Pakistan and thus India, Indonesia and North Korea. To address these tasks, the preponderant power of a G8 security concert with Russia as a full member provides a significantly superior alternative to regional security mechanisms, even if those mechanisms are backed by a United States America willing to lead as in Bosnia and Haiti. In the case of the Middle East, the results of the March 1996 Sharm el Sheikh "Summit of the Peacemakers," and the October 1, 1996 White House Summit, relative to its 1977 Camp David predecessor, suggests that unipolar American leadership alone is no longer adequate to confront the security threats of this still dangerous and unstable region.

A second security task arises from the fact that in the international system regional economic and security arrangements are weakest where regional security threats are now strongest. At one pole stands Europe, where an ever deepening and prospectively expanding European Union, and more-outwardly involved NATO and OSCE accompany a virtually concluded cold war. In the middle stands the Americas where NAFTA, the FTAA process, and a potentially reinvigorated OAS appear adequate to address many flourishing transnational security threats, and any challenge from the decaying remnant communist regime in Cuba. At the other pole lies the Asia-Pacific, where the nascent APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum together with subregional arrangements are wholly inadequate to address the long list of acute military disputes. Moreover, regional arrangements remain too fragile to cope with even transnational security and incipient civil war threats in Africa, and essentially irrelevant to the acute and more classic conflicts in the Middle East. While Russia may at some point become so weak that the more powerful Europeans can cope with any threats it should pose alone, for the foreseeable future, even in this most favoured region, there is a continuing need for a mechanism to bring the resources of extra-regional major powers to deal with security challenges in every region when they arise.

Four additional features make major power globalism superior to even the most advanced forms of regionalism in addressing the security challenges of the late 1990's. Even in Europe and in heightened form in other areas, there is little symmetry or connection between the economic and security arrangements for regional integration, and no regional regimes surpasses the G7's ability to treat economic and security issues in a fully fused tandem. Moreover in no region outside Europe is there a broad acceptance of the form of regional leadership or dominance that regional relative capability distributions would dictate, making many regional countries of consequence anxious to bring extra-regional powers into their arena. Neither a Japanese-led Asia, nor an American-led western hemisphere are formulae that command widespread assent within the respective regions. In addition, some major powers, notably Japan and Britain, actively resist any potential regional fate. Rising regionalism thus creates a new need for trans-regional connectors, with Japan in particular looking to the G7 to provide the global glue. Particularly in the economic field, vibrant regional integration produces an enhanced need for a global steering committee to ensure an emerging or eventual minimum compatibility among the various regional trade and investment liberalization regimes. Finally, well-developed regionalism can exacerbate security conflicts between blocs, as would probably have happened had the 1995 Canada-Spain Turbot conflict unfolded with all European G7 members fully supporting Spain, and without a carefully constructed G7 regime for high seas overfishing that largely legitimized Canada's case.

The dynamics of a rapidly globalizing international system also render regional arrangements incapable, in terms of geography and capacity, of dealing with the more intense and broader array of transnational security threats. The leading environmental threats to individuals and societies, notably ozone depletion and climate change, are physically fully global processes requiring global regimes, with regional arrangements such as joint implementation providing only partial, supplementary and as yet largely theoretical responses. Solving British difficulties with IRA terrorists require the active co-operation of the United States and Canada, as well as that of fellow Europeans. Indeed, media contagion in the modern age means that concessions to local terrorists anywhere can render more difficult the challenge of coping with terrorists anywhere, including within virtually all G7 countries with acute domestic terrorist threats. The transnational threats of infectious disease, drugs and money laundering, organized crime, and illegal migration, which can originate virtually anywhere and travel anywhere, also demand a global response. What is needed to combat such threats is a small group that can launch an appropriate regime, and expand its scope and membership as required to encompass the evolving threat. In contrast to the G7's legacy of pioneering such security regimes beginning with aircraft hijacking, nuclear materials, and missile technology, most regional arrangements have yet to devise robust regimes to deal with most of these transnational security threats [6].

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