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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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5. The Performance of the G7 as a Global Security Body

In conclusion, the recent record of the G7 indicates that there are four major ways in which the G7/G8 is performing a unique and effective role in promoting international security in the contemporary international system. In all cases, these are roles which regional institutions are unable to perform.

Firstly, amidst the fluidity of the post cold war order, the G7/G8 creates a consensus among the traditional major global powers about the rules for collective management of a wide range of rapidly evolving regional issues, rather than leaving such issues to the sphere of influence of a single power, or an undefined competition between competing powers. For example, in the second political preparatory meetings for Lyon, the Russian Political Director, now fully under the influence of Russia's new foreign minister Primakov, demanded that the draft Political Declaration be stripped of all references to Russia's new friend China, to Hong Kong (and thus of any implied criticism of China), to human rights in Nigeria (which the Russians argued was beyond the G7's purview), and to an international presence in Haiti after June 30, 1996. He also asked for a passage criticizing the US for its Helms-Burton bill on Cuba as well as the elimination of any endorsement of the multilaterally agreed Convention on Conventional Weapons, any reference to landmines, and any reference to START 2 ramification without a strong link to the ABM Treaty. During the Summit itself, however, with Primakov himself at the foreign ministers table, the Russians remained silent as the Group agreed to all of these consensus positions.

More generally, the ability of the G7 to socialize the Russians into the G7 concert, and thus broaden and deepen the global great power consensus, has been evident in the recent alignments within the P8. Quickly after the advent of Russian participation in the political preparatory process, the dominant alignment pattern became not one which pitted the Russians at one pole against G7 members on the other. Rather there emerged crosscutting cleavages among mixed coalitions, within which the Russians were seldom isolated.

Secondly, the G7 enables and encourages the emerging principal powers, whose security preoccupations remained confined to their local regions or are embraced diffusely through the broad multilateral forums of the United Nations, to adopt distinctive national positions on, and acquire a sense of responsibility for, a full range of security issues on a global scale. For example, at the start of the Lyon preparatory process, the Canadians prepared detailed briefs on all 75 issues they felt the Lyon Summit could and should address, passed them to the French chair, and watched as much of their text appeared in successive generations of the French political declaration. At the second preparatory session, the Japanese also tabled draft language on all items (although their impact came in reducing French criticism of the Chinese, seeking stronger language of nuclear disarmament, and unsuccessfully asking for a reference to UN Security Council reform).

Thirdly, the G7 provides greater global attention to particular regional issues, by highlighting priorities for G7 and broader international attention and involvement. In particular, they have given Asian issues a greater emphasis among the Atlantic powers traditionally focussed on Europe and the Middle East. At Lyon, the Japanese insisted that the Korean Peninsula be added to Bosnia and the Middle East which Chirac had specified, as regional security issues that the Summit would focus on.

Fourthly, the G7 brings greater financial and other resources to deal with particular regional issues, by involving distant major powers and determining burden sharing arrangements among them. The pattern evident in the 1990-1 Gulf War and for financing Russian reform in 1993 arose again on a smaller scale at Lyon. Here the Japanese successfully insisted that the Europeans contribute to a relief fund for the Korean peninsula, just as the Japanese had previously contributed to a similar fund for the former Yugoslavia.

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