Russia and the G7 Summit: Much Will Depend on What Trump Wants

26.05.2017

The question of Russia's return to the G7 is not on the agenda of the summit, which will be held on May 26-27 in Taormina, Italy, Valdai Club experts Alexander Rahr and Oleg Barabanov believe. Certainly, the leaders of the "Big Seven" should tune in to normal dealing with Russia - especially because of the upcoming G20 summit, where Russia will participate as a full member.

Russia was excluded from the G8 because of the situation in Ukraine, and to return back it is necessary to resolve the Ukraine problem. "We have been pretty clear with them (Russians) what that means. It means moving forward with the Minsk accord and restoring Ukraine sovereignty," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the eve of the G7 summit. Moscow, in turn, has repeatedly pointed out that Russia is just one of the guarantors of the Minsk agreements implementation, and not a party to the conflict in the Donbass at all.

"Much will depend on what Trump wants," said Alexander Rahr, Valdai Club expert, scientific director of the German-Russian forum, in an interview with www.valdaiclub.com.

On May 24, during the meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who on May 17 held talks with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, US President Donald Trump said more than clearly: Russia should bear responsibility "for its actions in the Crimea and on East of Ukraine". He also expressed the need to convince Russia to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk agreements.

However, Trump needs Russia, Alexander Rahr believes, especially from the point of view of NATO's struggle against the ISIS and Islamic extremism. "Trump will not promise Russia to lift the sanctions, but the future of relations between Washington and Moscow will depend on the extent to which the positions of Russia and America will move in the Middle East," the expert said.

On May 2, during a telephone conversation, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump spoke in favor of a personal meeting on the sidelines of G-20 summit in Hamburg on July 7-8.

According to Rahr, at the G7 summit there will be no talk about Russia's return to G8. "I think that there will be ordinary statements that if the Minsk agreements are fulfilled, then the sanctions will be lifted. The leaders of the "Big Seven" should tune in to normal dealing with Russia - especially because of the upcoming G20 summit, where Russia will participate as a full member," Rahr said.

Oleg Barabanov, Programme director of the Valdai Discussion Club, also believes that Russia will not be the main topic at the G7 summit. "It should be noted that in the past couple of years, before the G7 summits, certain leaders of the West made hints about the return of Russia to the G8 format. This was said by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, former German foreign minister, but it is obvious that this issue is not on the agenda right now. Russia is not on the agenda of the G7 meeting in Italy, "Barabanov said in an interview with www.valdaiclub.com.

According to him, in addition to general political discussion, the main attention will be paid to the problem of innovation and development in Africa. "Presidents of several African countries are invited to attend, and it is obvious that the main thematic focus will be on this issue," Barabanov said.

This will be the first summit for Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron, to some extent the "summit of acquaintance". "They can make some political statements, which, perhaps, will concern Russia, but nothing more. We cannot expect serious breakthroughs from this summit,"- said the Programme director of the Valdai Discussion Club.

"Trump's internal political problems, the pre-election situation in France, the UK and Germany will bring additional nervousness to the dialogue. Each of the leaders will want to demonstrate, first of all, to the domestic audience, that he keeps the situation under control, that his opinion is worthwhile. Here the PR effect will largely exceed the real political agreements, "Barabanov said.

Both Barabanov and Rahr noted that the participants at the summit in Italy have enough problems such as the fight against terrorism (especially in view of the recent terrorist attack in Manchester) and the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. "At the previous G7 summit, which took place shortly before the referendum on Brexit, the G7 made a political miscalculation when the group issued an open statement to the people of Great Britain with a demand not to vote for secession from the European Union. Thus, G7 actually opposed itself to the will of the people of Great Britain. Now they will not focus on this, nevertheless the unsuccessful political actions of the last year reduce the general credit of confidence in the G7 as a whole, "Barabanov emphasized.

As to security issues, according to Alexander Rahr, Russia "will be considered as a partner in a positive sense." If, of course, the "Big Seven" can agree on the prospects of fight against terrorism.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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