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Opinion: Do the G7 leaders hold the antidote to war?

World leaders gathered this week in Germany to discuss the problems on the world stage. What solutions and opportunities can we find in these talks?

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World leaders, members of the G7, stand in front of a bench with a backdrop of mountains and trees in Germany.

Members of the G7, including President Joe Biden, third from left, stand at Schloss Elmau following their dinner at G7 Summit in Elmau, Germany, Sunday, June 26, 2022. The G7 group holds a large amount of power on the world stage.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

Government leaders of the influential Group of 7 (G7) gathered June 26 to 28. They have met, talked and worked on policies at the elegant Schloss Elmau, in picturesque Bavaria, Germany.

Naturally, taxpayers of the nations involved foot the sizable bills for these big shots. Is this an outrage? Not at all, because these meetings are important to global peace.

The public purpose of the events is fostering economic stability. The other related purpose, however, is to use that stability to make war less likely.    

President Vladimir Putin, in using Russia’s military to invade Ukraine, has provided a bloody lesson in reality. For the first time since World War II, a major military power has launched a war on the continent of Europe.

For a time, Russia’s membership turned the G7 into the G8. Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea resulted in suspension, though not expulsion.

On June 23-24, China President Xi Jinping hosted a virtual summit of counterparts in Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. These sizable nations are not equal to the G7; Putin’s consolation is puny.

The G7 operates in the context of the larger G20, begun in 1999. That incentive was the Asia financial crisis of 1997, sparked by collapse of Thailand’s currency. Xi holding his summit outside this structure is revealing.

This G7 summit is the first for Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, successor to long-serving Angela Merkel, a tough act to follow. Germany last hosted the summit in 2015, also in the Schloss Elmau.

The organization evolved from an informal meeting of finance ministers of Britain, France, West Germany and the United States. U.S. Treasury Secretary George Shultz began the initiative, spurred by the 1973 oil embargo launched by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Other members are Canada, Italy and Japan, with the European Union also engaged.

In March 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proclaimed that the COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest threat since World War II. Guterres is a politician, formerly prime minister of Portugal, in love with his rhetoric.

His claim seems like a slight exaggeration. The decades following the war included the Cold War, with military confrontations involving nuclear weapons, the Korean and other wars that could have gone nuclear, and global pandemics in 1957-1958 and 1968-1969.

Focusing on nonmilitary problems after the frightening Cold War years is understandable. Hopefulness, however, should not negate reality.

Britain sponsored the last G7 summit, in 2021. That meeting assembled in the immediate wake of Belarus forcing a traversing civilian international airliner to land. The air pirates then arrested journalist Roman Protasevich.

Protasevich is a prominent critic of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Putin supports Lukashenko, but both their nations face increasing international economic penalties and political ostracism.

The U.S. and EU sanctioned Protasevich’s kidnappers. The EU banned air carriers from Belarus. The continuing consequences are hurting the weak Belarus economy. Now, G7 leaders have demonstrated unity across national boundaries to expand sanctions on Russia along with Belarus.

The world has made considerable practical progress since the invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939. The G7 and other multilateral organizations represent this success. Their durability reinforces the international influence of the U.S. and other nations committed to representative government.

For much of the Cold War, the United States and our allies were on the defensive. Today, global momentum is with us, with great opportunities.

Learn More: Henry Kissinger, “Diplomacy.”

Arthur I. Cyr is the author of “After the Cold War” and other books. Contact acyr@carthage.edu