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Group of Eight Summit Yields Africa Aid, Little Else

June 8, 2007 at 6:40 PM EDT
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RAY SUAREZ: A fleeting friendly moment marked the farewell to the most contentious meeting of the Group of Eight industrial nations in the 22 years of these get-togethers. The summit ended today after three days of blunt talk, seeming stalemate, and some wary agreement.

Beyond the reaffirmed commitment to aid for Africa — $60 billion to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria there — the G-8 leaders left other issues unresolved.

There was notable conflict on another big issue on this final day: a U.S., European Union and United Nations plan to grant what is called supervised independence to Kosovo, a province of the former Yugoslavia. Russia continued to support Serbia, its longtime ally. Serbia considers Kosovo an essential part of its heritage and opposes any independence for the province and its ethnic Albanian majority.

President Vladimir Putin rejected the independence proposal, saying Western countries should not humiliate or impose their will on Serbia. A 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Serbia stopped a brutal bout of ethnic cleansing in the province. But since then, the United Nations peacekeeping force has maintained a fragile calm.

On climate change, the Europeans and the U.S. smoothed over their public differences by agreeing to a non-binding pledge to “seriously consider” cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by the year 2050. Despite criticism from environmental groups that the Europeans had backed down, German chancellor and host of the meeting, Angela Merkel, sounded an optimistic note.

ANGELA MERKEL, Chancellor, Germany (through translator): Now the path is open for everyone to say that we need these binding targets.

RAY SUAREZ: On Darfur, the Group of Eight appealed to the Sudanese government to open a corridor of humanitarian assistance into the war-torn region. President Bush expressed open frustration on the lack of progress in stopping the killing.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: I’m frustrated that the international organizations can’t move quickly enough. I don’t know how long it’s going to take for people to hear the call to save lives.

RAY SUAREZ: Away from the group meetings, President Bush and Russian President Putin seemed to tamp down some earlier rhetoric over missile defense and democracy that brought reminders of the Cold War to the G-8 summit. At a meeting yesterday, Putin countered an American plan to install missiles and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic with his own plan: to use an old missile base in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

President Bush, who’s insisted the missile defense system is aimed at rogue states and not at Russia, called the Putin idea “interesting.” Putin went further today, suggesting the U.S. might explore Turkey or even Iraq as possible locations for the missile bases.

Two views now — one American, one European — on the summit. Charles Kupchan is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University. Reginald Dale is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He’s a former correspondent and columnist for the Financial Times and the International Herald-Tribune.

Charles Kupchan, now that it’s over and one for the books, a successful meeting, this G-8?

Grading the conference

Charles Kupchan
Council on Foreign Relations
They really didn't bring much home when it comes to Kosovo, Iran. Aid to Africa was basically a restatement of what they did at the Gleneagles summit a couple of years ago. On climate change, a big gap remains between the U.S. and the E.U.

CHARLES KUPCHAN, Council on Foreign Relations: Well, I'd probably give it a "B," if the question is, were they well behaved? Was there a bust-up? And the answer is, no, and that was not foreordained, in that there were a lot of contentious issues coming into this summit, as you said, and there was no fisticuffs. No one really aired these major grievances.

But if you ask the question "What did they actually accomplish?" I would give them somewhere well below a "C," not necessarily a failing grade, but they really didn't bring much home when it comes to Kosovo, Iran. Aid to Africa was basically a restatement of what they did at the Gleneagles summit a couple of years ago. On climate change, a big gap remains between the U.S. and the E.U. On Kosovo, essentially kicked the can down the road. Darfur, no progress.

So it really wasn't a summit that advanced in any significant way the major issues on the table.

RAY SUAREZ: Reginald Dale, from what Professor Kupchan said, it was hardly worth going.

REGINALD DALE, Center for Strategic and International Studies: Well, no, I'd give it a much higher grade than he does. I think you have to remember, first of all, what these summits are. They're not decision-making forums. They're places for the leaders to get together and decide on an approach which will then be followed through later by their ministers, and advisers, and civil servants.

And I think that, on the two major issues that we had in front of the summit here, climate change and relations between the United States and Russia, you could say that, in that sense, they achieved pretty good success.

The agreement on climate change was a big diplomatic victory for the United States; there's no doubt about that. We've now put the future orientation of the discussions on climate change, I think, on a much more sensible track.

The Europeans have more or less conceded that the rigid targets of -- rigid, enforced, mandatory targets of Kyoto are going to be a thing of the past. And Bush was talking -- he used the word "post-Kyoto" twice in one sentence at the end of the talks.

Evaluating emissions progress

Reginald Dale
Center for Strategic & Int'l Studies
If you stick with this rigid European approach, which even the Europeans are beginning to see doesn't work -- it hasn't worked in Kyoto. They've missed their targets, and it's been a mess.

RAY SUAREZ: Let me follow up on that in particular. When you get the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world together for one meeting, and what you come up with at the end is a promise to "seriously consider" -- that's the word from the joint communique -- "seriously consider" reductions by 2050, is that really a victory, even for the United States?

REGINALD DALE: Yes, it is, because what they were seriously considering -- if I could finish that sentence -- was mandatory targets, which is what the Europeans wanted. What has emerged from the meeting is a much more flexible system in which every country will be allowed to act in the way most appropriate to its own circumstances, its own economy. And that's the way in which you get China and India and all these other countries into the negotiations.

If you stick with this rigid European approach, which even the Europeans are beginning to see doesn't work -- it hasn't worked in Kyoto. They've missed their targets, and it's been a mess. And now we are going to have a situation where each country can do what's appropriate, where it has been accepted by the Europeans that economic growth is essential. That's been a big American point. The Europeans have accepted that technology plays a big part in the solution to this problem. I think that it's been a big move in the American direction, and a good one.

RAY SUAREZ: Professor Kupchan, on climate change, was that a move in the right direction?

CHARLES KUPCHAN: Well, I think the progress that was made was limited, and it falls well short of what's needed to really deal with this problem. I mean, I would agree with Reginald that the two sides of the Atlantic are somewhat closer together, and that shift really occurred last week when President Bush, number one, said we've got a problem here, and the scientific evidence makes that clear. Number two, we need a multilateral approach to this that includes Russia and needs to include China, needs to include India, in other words, countries that are in a more developmental phase.

But he said we're not going to abide by a timetable or specific mandatory targets. And then we can have an argument about whether such targets are a good thing or not. In my view, and in the view of, I think, many environmental analysts, you need such targets and such timetables, because otherwise countries fall off the wagon, as it were.

And in the case of Kyoto, there are specific targets in the E.U. They set up a carbon-trading system to try to get the emitters to bring down their levels, and they did so by setting a price for not emitting carbon and then trading those units of not carbon, if you will. And even then, as Reginald said, yes, countries are not keeping up to their commitments.

So if the U.S. position is the one that prevailed, then I think it may be a victory for the Bush administration, but it certainly isn't a step forward on the question of trying to limit greenhouse gases and fight global warming.

Discussing missile defense

Reginald Dale
Center for Strategic and Int'l Studies
It's too early to say what will happen in the future, but what the conference achieved was putting the United States and Russia back on speaking terms. They agreed to study this whole question of missile defense together.

RAY SUAREZ: Reginald Dale, let's take a look at missile defense.

REGINALD DALE: Yes.

RAY SUAREZ: The conference began with Russia and the United States lobbing verbal salvos at each other. At least at the end, they're talking about other alternatives. Progress there?

REGINALD DALE: Yes, I would say there is. It's too early to say what will happen in the future, but what the conference achieved was putting the United States and Russia back on speaking terms. They agreed to study this whole question of missile defense together. The Americans talked about a strategic dialogue; so we've got the Russians into the dialogue on missile defense.

Now, this could either -- there's a good and a bad interpretation of this. The bad one is that the Russians are just trying to spin it out. They're the world's best chess players, as you know, and they've just made a move, moved a piece to Azerbaijan by offering a radar facility there. This may just be a delaying tactic to spin it out and to further divide the Europeans.

The good interpretation would be that they are now on board with the idea of missile defense and are prepared to discuss it seriously, because, obviously, there are big differences. The Americans are not going to give up the plan to put them in Poland and the Czech Republic, the missiles in Poland and the radar in the Czech Republic.

U.S. relations with Russia

Charles Kupchan
Council on Foreign Relations
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have carried over to Kosovo, where we do have a resolution pending in the U.N. Security Council. And at least as far as we can tell, Putin intends to exercise a veto on the independence of this province from Serbia.

RAY SUAREZ: Professor Kupchan, what did you make of the result on missile defense?

CHARLES KUPCHAN: I basically agree with that view, and it's good news in the sense that Russia, instead of fighting the system, is now trying to somehow engage us, and that may lead to a situation in which there is a convergence of views on it. But it's simply too soon to tell, because there are a lot of unknowns about the Russian proposal.

What is the capability of the radar in Azerbaijan? What is the geographic implications of using Azerbaijan? It may, in fact, be too close, and that's because the system that we're talking about is focused on what's called midcourse intercept, rather than boost phase, so being really close to Iran is not necessarily a good thing. Is Putin saying that we don't want to have any systems in the Czech Republic and Poland? Today, he mentioned, well, maybe we should use Turkey, Iraq, ships as a way to launch the interceptors.

So there's a lot that's unknown here, but I do think it is a step in the right direction, because, instead of having Russia and the U.S. on opposite and opposing sides of this issue, at least we've got them both floating ideas, trying to find some common ground. And that's a good beginning, especially given the blustery rhetoric of Putin over the last few years.

But, unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have carried over to Kosovo, where we do have a resolution pending in the U.N. Security Council. And at least as far as we can tell, Putin intends to exercise a veto on the independence of this province from Serbia.

RAY SUAREZ: Reginald Dale, let's close with Kosovo. Does the scene now shift from Heiligendamm in Germany to Kennebunkport, Maine, and indeed to the U.N.?

REGINALD DALE: Well, I don't know that they're going to talk about Kosovo in Kennebunkport. It shifts to the U.N. in the sense that, if Russia vetoes this plan in the U.N. for limited independent for Kosovo, Kosovo is quite likely to declare independence by itself, which would create quite a big crisis.

I think the important thing to remember here is that Russia is trying step by step to rebuild the position it had in the Cold War, and that is a position in which it is the main interlocutor for the United States over the heads of the Europeans. And Putin seems to be working in that direction. He has talks on the missiles, U.S.-Russian, talks on Kosovo, U.S.-Russian, and he wants to show that these are the two big powers and he's back at the top table.

RAY SUAREZ: Reginald Dale, Charles Kupchan, gentlemen, thank you, both.

REGINALD DALE: Thank you.