President Trump has cancelled the face-to-face G7 summit that was set to be held in June, amidst safety concerns regarding Covid-19 from foreign leaders, and conflict over Russia’s return to the G7. Trump made the announcement on Saturday 30th May, outlining plans to host an expanded meeting in September with a new format. This included the addition of countries such as Russia, Australia, South Korea and India, with a united aim dedicated to building an alliance against China. Various leaders have opposed Russia’s readmission to the group, following its expulsion in 2014 in response to its annexation of Crimea.
“Russia was excluded from the G7 after it invaded Crimea a number of years ago, and its continued disrespect and flaunting of international rules and norms is why it remains outside of the G7, and it will continue to remain out,” Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed the statement, as his spokesman said he would veto any proposal to allow Russia to rejoin unless it ceased its “aggressive and destabilising activity”. Despite this opposition, President Trump has repeatedly criticised the summit for its “very outdated” makeup, claiming it does not properly represent “what’s going on in the world”. He believes Russia’s addition to the summit would be beneficial in countering China’s recent intervention in Hong Kong.
However, it seems invitations are not the only potential difficulty arising from the summit. Despite Trump’s wish to show America returning to some sense of normality, as the total death toll for the country now exceeds 100,000, the practical safety of an in-person summit creates further complications. In addition to German Chancellor Angela Merkel offering no confirmation of attending a face-to-face meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reluctant to travel, in part because of the so-called Dominic Cummings effect. Although it seems more likely these leaders would be able to attend a summit later on in the year, there is still no guarantee.
The G7 (Group of Seven) is an organisation made up of seven of the world’s largest economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States, with the European Union invited too. They meet annually to discuss issues of global governance, with principles of freedom, human rights, prosperity and sustainable development at its core. The group were, until 2014, known as the G8, before G7 members cancelled the planned summit set to be held that year in the Russian city of Sochi, and suspended Russia’s membership of the group. This came following the forcible acquisition of Crimea by Russia in late February 2014, when Russian troops took over the Supreme Council of Crimea, and captured strategic sites across the country. This led to the installation of the pro-Russian Aksyonov government, with formal incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation coming into effect from 18th March 2014.
With a date not yet set for the G7 Summit to be held in September, we must wait to see what kind of format is decided. The purpose of such a meeting will also be determined by events likely to shape the coming months, including the recovery of these states from the pandemic, as well as China’s intervention in Hong Kong.