The Big Seven: The West Can No Longer Solve All Problems Alone
What is the "West"? Does the West still exist as such - in light of Britain’s exit from the EU and the US drift towards unilateral approaches? This question concerns many people now - mainly in Old Europe, writes Arnaud Dubien, head of the Observo Franco-Russian Analytical Centre.
Today, the G7 is going through difficult times - and even, perhaps, suffering a real existential crisis. This is due to at least two factors. First, there is the presence in this club of an element that contrasts itself with the rest of the member countries – this, of course, is the United States. Since the US is the largest Western power, it has made the work of the organisation problematic: many experts say that on many issues it’s incorrect to think of the group as the G7, but rather “six plus one”. Second, the weight and legitimacy of the Seven has been called into question, not only in connection with the absence or possible return of Russia to the group, but also because it is impossible to seriously discuss the fate of the world without China, India and other major world powers. It would be more appropriate here to return to the idea of another French president - Giscard d’Estaing, who launched this project in the 1970s and saw what would become the “seven” as an informal conversation among Western democracies. Now it better resembles something between the old “seven” and the current G20 with a joint agenda, which does not contribute to a better understanding of the group’s current tasks.
Even though, in order to avoid disagreements, the leaders of the G7 didn’t attempt to publish a joint communique, the benefits of the Biarritz summit were more than expected. Emmanuel Macron showed considerable energy and a lot of questions were brought up for discussion - these not only concerned the fate of the West, but also trade wars and Brazil’s fires. As for Macron’s discussions about the future of the West and the role the G7, one can see here that the development of those thoughts surrounded his meeting with Vladimir Putin: the French president understands that the West can no longer solve all problems alone and that its influence is diminishing, although this does not need to be overestimated.
On the other hand, what is the “West”? Is there still the West as such - in light of Britain’s exit from the EU and the US drift towards unilateral approaches? This question is of concern to many now - mainly in Old Europe. If initially the European Union was created out of fear of the USSR, now it has to dissociate itself from the United States. If Europe, as Macron says, wants to be sovereign, it will have to assert itself and go against the ideas that have dominated for sixty years. Therefore, this process is becoming harder.
Whether negotiations with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif following his somewhat unexpected appearance at the summit have succeeded in influencing the fate of the JCPOA is not known, and one can only hope for that. However, in general, this once again shows that even within the G7, the United States has adopted an isolated stance on this issue. Although this initiative originally belonged to Macron, it seems to have been supported by all other countries in Europe and even Japan. In other words, this is an attempt to show that Europe, at least on this issue, can assert its identity, take a unified position and force the United States to talk, and maybe even make concessions.
As for the question of Russia’s return, Moscow has little interest in re-creating the G8, because it never felt comfortable there; on the contrary, it often found itself alone against everyone else. However, the very fact that this issue is being discussed, that new watersheds have appeared and frictions have arisen, is positive for Russia: this means that the topic is big and important for discussion in a club where Moscow does not represent itself. This confirms Macron’s thesis that without Russia, serious global problems cannot be solved. For Moscow, at this stage, this is the most positive development.