The leaders of the world's major industrialized countries named Russia as a full member of the G8 on Wednesday. The change becomes official in 2006, when Russia will host the group's summit for the first time.
Rocky Mountain High: The G8 grows up at Kananaskis.
Before Wednesday's surprise move, Russian President Vladimir Putin had only been allowed to participate in political discussions at the G8's annual summit meetings, which bring together the world's seven richest countries - from the United States to Japan - and Russia. But now, Putin will be given an equal voice in the body's economic decision-making as well.
"Russia will become a full member of the G8 in 2006," Alfred Tacke, undersecretary in the German Ministry of Economics, told Deutsche Welle. "The French president and the German chancellor pushed hard for the deal." As part of the new development, Germany will postpone by one year its planned hosting of the summit and its role as rotating G8 chair.
Money for Decommissioning
As part of the deal, Russia is also to receive $20 billion (20.29 billion euro) for the decommissioning of its weapons of mass destruction. Under the plan, the U.S. will contribute $10 billion (10.18 billion euro) and the other erstwhile G7 nations an additional $10 billion over the next ten years.
"This threat is not over yet. We have to make sure that at every single level," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said at Kananaskis, "we carry this fight on, and it will take a long time," he said.
Tacke of the German Finance Ministry described the project as a holdover from the Cold War era. "There's a collective responsibility for all countries to contribute," he said. "By increasing security in this area and supporting efforts to destroy hazardous materials, we're also contributing to our own security," he said.
Extending the Olive Branch
Russia's membership in the G8 is the latest olive branch offered to the former Cold War superpower as an acknowledgement of its efforts to expand democracy and free market systems within its borders and to increase its role in international security cooperation. Last month, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization created a new NATO-Russia Council that will transform its former nemesis into a strategic partner in many of its military initiatives.
U.S. President George W. Bush failed in his effort to make the Middle East the agenda-driving issue at the Canadian summit. But he has succeeded in making the war against terrorism the political octopus of the meeting, with tentacles reaching into virtually every theme on the agenda - from safeguarding and decommissioning Russian weapons to eradicating poverty in Africa, which the G8 leaders believe fuels political instability and terrorism.
On Wednesday, the G8 also agreed to cooperate on new airline and air freight security measures in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, including better sharing of passenger lists, securing cockpit doors, and making it more difficult for terrorists to transport dangerous materials.
On Thursday, the G8 is expected to agree on a $1 billion debt-relief package for Africa as part of an initiative established in Cologne, Germany in 1999. Since the start of the program, close to $40 billion in debt has been forgiven for the world's poorest countries.