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#17 - JRL 2006-166 - JRL Home
From: Ira Straus (IRASTRAUS@aol.com)
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2006
Subject: Re: JRL #165 [G8] summit evaluations

The most empty evaluation possible on the G8 summit is the one everyone is writing about -- whether it was a win for Putin or not. That's not what a G8 summit is about.

It was the Russia-bashing sector of our chattering classes that tried to make this the main subject. They chose the G8 as the ground of

battle with Putin. Well, they chose poorly and lost. They scored an own goal. As ought to have been expected. Seems to me it would take a kamikaze mentality to choose this as a ground of battle, it should have been obvious what that would lead to. That's all that deserves to be said about the "who won" question.

Unfortunately the G8 got caught in the crossfire.

What matters for the rest of us is whether the summit succeeded in advancing shared G8 goals. It did, of course, but less than it could have.

Part of the reason for that shortfall is that a lot of the energy for the summit went into the distraction of treating it as a battle over Putin, at the expense of the actual summit agenda. The other part of the reason is that Russia, through Gazprom, disrupted the centerpiece of its own agenda, energy security, with the "gas war" with Ukraine in January. Between the two -- the anti-Russia crowd and Putin -- they undermined the chances of reaching a substantive agreement upgrading the interests of the G8 partners on energy security.

In other words, those in the anti-Russia crowd who wish to say the G8 summit failed in its business probably should be blaming themselves, alongside Putin. Those of them who are upset about it for handing Putin a victory should be blaming themselves again -- it was they who turned it into an issue of Putin, and so handed Putin this victory.

It is my experience that most of these people don't care much about the G8, and don't know much about it either -- which isn't surprising, most people don't, outside of those few who have worked in the sphere of Atlantic institutions. They do know something about Russia, and that seems to be the only thing they're concerned with -- their polemic against Putin's Russia. It's to be expected, then, that their actions have served to damage the G8.

It may be self-defeating on their part, since most of them probably identify with the West and with the G-7. But one gets an impression they don't really conceive of the West or the Atlantic grouping as existing for any purpose except anti-Russian ones. Of course the West existed long before Russia was its enemy, there was even an Atlantic alliance in two world wars before Russia became an enemy, and the West has plenty of other far more serious purposes today. It is this real existing West that is harmed by the attacks on the G-8, one of its real existing sub-structures.

A Washington Post editorial prior to the summit said that maybe the event does have some value after all if it can be used for bashing Putin. The attitude is scandalous, one of polemic rather than citizenship; as if we, citizens of the U.S. and thereby of the G8, have no interest in the G8 per se.

For those of us who do care about the G8, about Atlanticism, and about international governance, this experience ought to serve as a warning. We have new troublemakers for the G8 -- not just the usual anti-globalization protesters, but the anti-Russia protesters. It makes no difference if the latter think of themselves as pro-Western, since they shoot at their own side and score "own goals". They too do us harm. They would need to do some new thinking if they were to stop being harmful to the actual Western side in the world. Hopefully they'll have some time for that now that the summit is over and it's years before Russia will head another one. Meanwhile some new thinking is probably needed in the G8 about how to counteract the new troublemakers.