Leaders from seven of the world’s wealthiest countries are meeting at this year’s G7 Summit in Germany’s Bavarian Alps on Sunday to discuss the globe’s most pressing issues. On the agenda at the June 26-28 event are Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the global economic crises exacerbated by the war, vaccine equity, and the climate emergency.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is the G7 chair this year, previously said at the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin in March that the war in Ukraine “must not lead us as the G7 to neglect our responsibility for global challenges such as the climate crisis or the pandemic.”
What is the G7?
The G7 consists of seven of the world’s richest countries, which meet annually to typically discuss global security, economic, and climate concerns. This year, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and U.S. President Joe Biden are expected to be in attendance.
E.U. President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel will attend this year as well, as is customary for the bloc’s leaders.
“It’s a gathering of some of the most economically and politically powerful democracies in the world…that’s happening at a time when we have the greatest authoritarian expansionist threat since Nazi Germany invaded Europe,” says Nicole Sedaca, executive vice president of Freedom House, a U.S. nonprofit that tracks democracies. “What we’ll be looking for is how much of their political and economic might will they bring to bear to really push back on on Russian aggression.”
The G7 chair can invite other nations, and the leaders of Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal, and South Africa are expected to attend.
Although Russia joined the group in 1998—and the name changed to G8—the country has been excluded since 2014 after annexing Crimea.
The G7, as it is now known, was first formed in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, which had led to a deep recession and rising inflation. France, Italy, Japan, the U.K., the U.S., and West Germany formed the initial Group of Six in 1975 to discuss the ensuing economic concerns. Canada joined the group in 1976.
What’s on the agenda?
Despite Scholz’s comments that the war in Ukraine must not cause G7 leaders to neglect other global priorities, the issue is expected to dominate the three-day summit. “There is a real premium on conveying unity and a credible response because this war is not going to be short-lived,” says Michael Hanna, U.S. program director at the International Crisis Group.
This year’s summit could be particularly important for crafting impactful global economic responses, he adds.
A major focus will likely entail dealing with economic shocks that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent Western sanctions—areas where experts believe finding a unified approach will be an easier task.
“(Russia) deserves the lion’s share of the blame but there’s no question that the response and Western sanctions are playing some part,” Hanna says, referring to the state of the global economy. “That comes on top of the kind of inflationary pressures and economic shocks that we saw during the pandemic.”
The war’s effect on the distribution of food has been dire. Ukraine is one of the world’s main suppliers of grains and vegetable oil; Russia’s invasion has disrupted regular production and contributed to record world food prices. The G7 has called on all nations to “keep their food and agricultural markets open” and questions over food production, distribution and supply, and aid for hard-hit countries could be points of discussion.
“Many of these challenges that we’re facing globally are man-made challenges,” Sedaca says. “It’s not a shortage of wheat. It’s not a shortage of grain. It is a choice of one country to disrupt global markets for their own authoritarian gain.” She cautions against focusing only on food or refugee crises without addressing the root cause. “When the root cause is authoritarianism, we need to solve that as opposed to focusing singularly on the outcomes.”
The G7 also reiterated ahead of the summit the need to work towards achieving the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population against the coronavirus by mid-2022. But doing so, would “require substantial acceleration” of the global vaccination campaign, according to a statement on the G7’s official website.
How G7 nations have supported Ukraine so far
The G7 nations agreed last month to provide an addition $19.8 billion in economic aid to Ukraine. They have imposed sanctions on Russia, which target some of the country’s biggest banks, major Russian state-owned enterprises, and elites and their family members. They have also committed to working towards phasing out or banning Russian oil.
More recently, the U.S. announced last week that it would send an additional $1 billion in military aid. It has already committed $4.6 billion in security assistance since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24. France promised last week that it would send Ukraine six more truck-mounted artillery guns. Germany’s defense minister signaled three multiple rocket launchers would be available for Ukraine’s use in July or August. Canada announced June 15 that it would be providing at least $9 million worth of additional military aid; since the war broke out, Canada has promised $274 million in military assistance to Ukraine.
There are further signs of Western resolve to continue to support Ukraine.
Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv and affirmed their support for the country’s E.U. bid. The E.U. granted Ukraine “candidate” status on Thursday. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also arrived in Kyiv later last week for his second surprise visit to the beleaguered nation.