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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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4. The G7's Growing Potential as a Supplier of Global Security in the 1990's

During the 1990's, the G7, relative to its global competitors of the UN, Eurocentric NATO, the historic bipower condominium, and an allegedly newly unipolar United States, has a wide and increasing advantage in manifesting the four defining features of an effective modern global concert. The eight members (the G7 plus Russia) of the G8 established at the Lyon Summit in June 1996 to deal with "global" issues have a decisive lead in combined overall capabilities, in specific security capabilities of a classic, modern and more broadly-defined sort, and in their ability and willingness to act individually and collectively on a global scale. They have maintained the concerted participation required for timely and well tailored collective action by finding a formula to embrace a declining and still dangerous Russia within the G7 concert, but excluding it as necessary to deal with issues, such as Bosnia and Mid East terrorism, where Russian positions may differ from those of the G7 and be an impediment to effective action. They are deepening the common principles that unite them by reforming and socializing Russia, embracing the security concerns of a rising Japan, enlarging the geographic and functional range of security issues the G7 comes to consensus on, and (as in the case of terrorism) mandating ever more detailed action in response. They have also strengthened the political control of democratically-elected heads of state and governments over the political-security agenda, and both forced and allowed leaders to communicate to their attentive domestic electorate why they need to take actions that often involve considerable public inconvenience or costly engagement in distant theatres.

In the realm of concentrated power, the G7/G8 continues its dominance of the international system as a whole, while improving the equality of capability among members within the group. In the economic sphere, the G7 in 1994 collectively possessed about 70% of gross world output at market exchange rates and 50% at purchasing power parity, in both cases about the same share they commanded in 1960 [7].. In 1995 the G7 held 45.9% of total IMF quotas and 38.3% of total international monetary reserves. In 1994 the G5 currencies represented 93.2% of currencies held in world currency reserves, while those of the G7 (with Canada added) represented 84% of those in foreign exchange trading [8]. It is America's falling portion of that total, and the diffused dispersion of America's released capabilities to other G7 members that has produced the equalization of capability within the club [9]. In the military sphere, the addition of even a much reduced Russia to the G8, and the expanding capabilities to other of Japan have increased the G7/G8's concerted power, even in the face of a rearming China and broader Asian arms race. Moreover, the G7/G8 maintains an overwhelming lead in the precision weaponry that the Gulf War proved to be decisive in modern combat. The inclusion of Russia has also strengthened the G7/G8 share of relevant capabilities in such transnational security fields as the environment, organized crime, and weapons smuggling. Within the G7, only in some cases, such as the rapid deployment of decisive military force, do America's predominant capabilities make effective G7 action dependant upon the United States' willingness to participate, if not to lead.

G7 members are also increasingly willing as a collectivity to be concerned with regional security issues on a global scale, to assume the responsibility for managing them, and, if necessary, to engage in individual and concerted military intervention outside their borders. In the 1990-1991 Gulf War five of the G7 members assumed offensive combat roles, while the other two, Germany and Japan, provided financial assistance. Japan (in Cambodia) and Germany (and its successor force in the former Yugoslavia in IFOR) are now moving clearly into military interventions in combat situations beyond their borders. Even the militarily weakest and most reluctant member, Canada, is a participant in IFOR, and its successor and seen by some as a useful and probable member of a future G7 based coalition in any new Korean war [10]. It is also noteworthy that in the initial stages of the Canadian led mission to mount a military intervention force for refugee relief in Zaire in the autumn of 1966, it was all the G7 powers, along with only middlepower Sweden and Spain, that were prepared to commit forces to the effort.

The constricted participation of the G7/G8 remains essentially intact. Moves to expand the club by involving several developing countries in a pre-Summit dinner with G7 leaders in 1989 and by having Indonesia's President Suharto meet the Japanese and US leaders before the Summit opened in 1993 have largely ended. Although fully adding the Russians and their capability to the new G8 for global issues, the Lyon Summit preserved, and in some senses strengthened the constricted participation necessary for the G7 itself to arrive at and monitor the implementation of collective agreements. The Lyon Summit largely ended the uncertainly created over the previous years by the continuing Russian demands for full membership in the G7, by the divisions between a Germany and France anxious to accommodate their European colleague and a Japan and USA opposed, and by the incremental awarding of enhanced participation to the Russians at each successive Summit. Although it is possible that the Russians will return to their demands for participation in the G7 economic agenda, and that the United States host in 1997 may be tempted to accommodate to assuage wounded Russian feelings over NATO expansion, the prospect of their succeeding, and the debate itself is widely regarded as resolved. In the lead up to the Lyon Summit, the Clinton administration made it clear that any attempt by the French, (supported by the Germans and at an early stage by the Canadians) to include the Russians in the G7 would prompt the United States to create a new G3, from which France, Canada and others would be excluded, to serve as the effective centre for managing international economic affairs. Moreover the fixed formula found for Lyon preserved the G7 as an insulated body for managing core economic issues, while according the Russians full membership in a "Global 8," that included not only traditional political and security issues, but the full array of "new security" or global issues, such as transnational crime, drugs, terrorism, and environmental protection, and even such "soft" economic issues as UN reform and the information society. In most of these new security areas the Russian claim to membership based on specialized capability is especially strong. This G8 was given both a separate identity from, and equal status to, the economic G7, as it also lasted a full day, opened with a leaders-only dinner, discussed a wide-ranging yet focussed agenda, and ended with its own declaration. It also conducted a post-Summit meeting of the G8 with the heads of four major multilateral economic institutions (including the World Trade Organization to which Russia does not belong).

Moreover, Lyon confirmed, and perhaps institutionalized, the G7's ability to act alone on old and new security issues, without the presence, permission or even prior consultation of the Russians. At the 1995 Halifax Summit newly-elected French President Jacques Chirac had arrived calling for an initiative, which his officials had already drafted, on Bosnia. At their opening dinner, the G7 leaders took up this issue, produced their own draft, and issued their own statement, read by Chair Jean Chretien alone at the end of that first night, before the Russians had even arrived. At Lyon in 1996 a similar spontaneous, stand-alone G7 security initiative took place. During their opening dinner, the G7 responded to President Clinton's public promise that Lyon would take 40 specific actions to combat terrorism in the wake of a bombing of an American base in Saudi Arabia the previous week. Despite the confusion of a U.S. staffer, and thus President Clinton of the G7's 40 measures against organized crime with the terrorism topic (where no such list of 40 measures existed), Chirac and Clinton together issued a statement on the later topic on behalf of the G7 at the end of the first evening.

In both cases, the Russians had a direct geographic and functional interest in the security issues at hand. Acting alone allowed the G7 the speed and spontaneity useful to impress domestic audiences and foreign adversaries, and send a signal to the Russians that the new G8 arrangement would not erode the G7's residual right and ability to act alone in the security sphere. The action at the opening dinner also had the effect of preserving the agreed-upon G7 and G8 agenda, allowing the seven leaders at Lyon to devote the bulk of their time alone to discuss President Yeltsin's health and their reactions to various election outcomes in Russia, and enabling the eight leaders the next night to talk about Bosnia and other core security issues.

It was also at the Lyon Summit's opening dinner that the G7 alone decided the political-security agenda of the Summit and its political declaration. In choosing the three regional security issues to focus on, however, the seven were careful to select those (Bosnia, the Middle East, and the Korean peninsula) where it would be easy to reach consensus with the Russians.

The common purpose of the group is also deepening. Russia remains absent from the G7 economic club, while its admittance as a full member of the G8 came only as its essential democratic credentials were confirmed with the Presidential election of 1996. The April 1996 nuclear safety summit, and the agreements reached at it, added another major and visible issue to the realm where its similar interests among the G8 flourished. The increasing experience of Japan and Germany with extra-regional military involvements is also adding to the group's common knowledge base.

The political control of the Summit has also expanded in recent years. The 1990's have seen a proliferation of stand-alone, ad hoc and annual ministerial forums, embracing such new areas as the environment and organized crime. The ad hoc April 1996 Moscow nuclear safety summit doubled the direct annual involvement of the heads themselves. The decision of President Chirac, supported by his G7 colleagues, to focus on three regional security issues, rather than the long list forwarded by officials in their draft political declaration, continued a long tradition of leaders exercising their full control. And while President Yeltsin chose not to attend Lyon, sending Prime Minister Chernomyrdin in his place, the Summit has survived missing heads (in part at Naples 1994 and in full on a previous occasion), and absorbed the presence of the non-democratically elected heads of the European Union's Commission. The control by popularly elected heads gives the G7/G8 a particular advantage in dealing with the new transnational security issues that affect individuals directly, for it is here that popular pressure for G7 action is most intense. The spontaneously-constructed opening night statements on Bosnia in 1995 and terrorism in 1996 shows the unique ability of political leaders to respond to the immediate security concerns of their publics and to communicate to those publics why they should become engaged. President Chirac's decision, supported by his colleagues, to focus on only three regional security issues at Lyon was based on the calculation that outside publics and others would not believe the leaders had discussed a broader list, and his desire to raise the G7's public credibility and deterrent effect.

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