Adopting the slogan “Progress towards an equitable world”, Germany had intended to use the G7 presidency to push for collective action on important global issues such as climate change, healthy lives, sustainable development, inequality, and the defence of democracy. But this transformative agenda was suddenly confronted with Vladimir Putin’s war. The meticulously planned G7 programme had to be adjusted to a new political reality. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February 2022, the German presidency has closely cooperated with the EU and NATO to coordinate numerous measures to support Ukraine. These include extensive financial and economic sanctions against Moscow as well as arms shipments to and humanitarian aid for Kyiv.
Not all governments are following suit
However, beyond the circle of like-minded states represented in the G7, the EU, and NATO, international solidarity with Ukraine has remained limited. Therefore, the selection of guest countries to be invited to join the G7 for its June summit at Schloss Elmau proved to be challenging. Only after extensive deliberations and, reportedly, some diplomatic hiccups, India, Indonesia, Senegal, and South Africa were finally officially named as invitees.
The delay has a lot to do with the public positioning of these countries with regard to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Since the start of the war, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) has adopted three major resolutions condemning Moscow. None of the four invitees has consistently closed ranks with the G7 by approving all three resolutions. According to the reasoning of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in her speech to support the first resolution, this is tantamount to a toleration of Russian aggression. Baerbock quoted the South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, who, in referring to the Apartheid regime, maintained that “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a flagrant violation of international law, neutrality constitutes an alignment with the aggressor. However, India, Indonesia, Senegal, and South Africa are hardly alone with their preference for neutrality. Governments representing roughly half of the world population either explicitly voted against all three UNGA resolutions, abstained, or were absent.
Shadows cast over the G20
Putin’s war has also cast a shadow over the G20, which includes Russia. Up to now, the G7 have only been joined by three other G20 members – Australia, the EU, and South Korea – in imposing sanctions against Moscow. This further complicated the invitation process: When the UK presided over the G7 in 2021, India and South Africa attended the summit, joining in on a statement about open societies that included a reference to an “open and inclusive rules-based international order”. Both countries are members of the G20 as well as BRICS, a group that also includes Brazil, China, and Russia. They thus provide an important link to the governments in Beijing and Moscow. Given their self-proclaimed neutrality, inviting them to the G7 summit this year has understandably raised concerns – but it also provides an opportunity. Russia’s war of aggression will definitely play a central role in Elmau. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been present at various meetings of the G7 in the last few months. The summit could thus include a facilitated exchange between the guest countries and Ukraine – preferably in close coordination with a parliamentary track. It would be a major achievement if the guest countries were to be convinced that Kyiv needs their active support.
This would also send a strong message for the G20 summit in Indonesia, where Putin’s attendance is very likely. China has already signalled that the G20 process should be kept free from political differences about the Russian invasion. Of course, the G7 should remain committed to political dialogue, especially since Australia, South Korea, and the EU share its position towards Russia. But there can hardly be “business as usual”: A “family photo” with Putin cordially joining the heads of state and governments is hard to fathom. In Elmau, the G7 and the guest countries should therefore also discuss the G20 summit. The aim should be to increase support for Ukraine. That Indonesia – the G20 host and G7 guest country – invited Zelenskyy to participate in Bali is a positive step in this direction.
ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is avoiding a clear condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, Felix Heiduk and Gudrun Wacker believe that for Berlin and Brussels, there are starting points for dialogue and cooperation.
How could the German G7 Presidency and the UN Secretary-General leverage their objectives to each other’s benefit? Marianne Beisheim and Silke Weinlich put forward two proposals in this regard.