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G7 members unite to face China and Russia

June 28, 2022

The war in Ukraine has triggered a struggle for power and influence. Russia and China are challenging the existing world order. Western democracies are seeking to counter this and are looking for allies.

Olaf Scholz addressing the media at the 2022 G7 summit in southern Germany
Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave a somber message to journalists at the end of the summitImage: Leonhard Foeger/REUTERS

By the last day of the G7 summit, the sun had disappeared. Dark clouds settled over the imposing mountain backdrop behind Schloss Elmau, imbuing German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's final appearance with a somewhat somber atmosphere that reflected his message to the assembled journalists. "A time of uncertainty lies ahead of us," the chancellor said, referring to the war in Ukraine and its consequences. "We can not foresee how it will end."

Scholz spoke of a "long haul" and of consequences for everything and everyone. According to the German chancellor, the seven leading western industrial nations Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Canada, and the United States stand together as "close friends and allies" who demonstrated unity.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron
A show of unity as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron metImage: Susan Walsh/AP/picture alliance

Competing with China

But the G7 are looking for more partners and allies. Since the Russian attack on Ukraine, it has become increasingly clear that the world is once again dividing into zones of power and influence. Who is on whose side? Who is a friend; who is an enemy?

The G7 leaders were joined at the summit by the heads of state or government from Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz referring to them as "democracies of the future and with a future."

Meanwhile, China is pushing full steam ahead with its Belt and Road Initiative, the project also known as the New Silk Road — and is binding countries to Beijing through lending and infrastructure projects such as port expansions.

The G7 and the EU have long recognized this, but have so far done little to counteract it.

That is now set to change with the "Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment" project. The idea was developed at the last G7 summit under the UK presidency and has now been backed with $600 billion (€566 billion) to finance projects for infrastructure, climate protection, and health in developing and emerging countries. The focus will be on Africa, but other low-income countries can also participate. The program runs until 2027.

G7 summit key takeaways: DW's Michaela Küfner

Is the West coming too late?

"If democracies show what they can offer, then they don't have to worry about winning the competition," said US President Joe Biden with conviction. Indonesia and India, the current and future chairs of the G20, were invited to Elmau. Senegal chairs the African Union and Argentina chairs the Commonwealth of Latin American and Caribbean States. So they are also multipliers.

The main point of contention among the G7 countries and their guests was how to deal with Russia. When the United Nations voted to condemn the Kremlin's attack on Ukraine in March and called on Moscow to end its aggression, India, Senegal and South Africa abstained. Argentina and Indonesia are also not in line with the West on sanctions against Russia. India is now importing even more Russian oil than before the war.

The industrialized democracies know that, despite their economic power, they cannot isolate Russia if other states circumvent the sanctions — but they do not want to entirely fall out with Moscow for economic reasons.

Energy and food

The G7 summit has not yielded big decisions. This applies above all to climate protection, which only appears at the bottom of the final document's list of "key challenges of our time" on page two. The G7 nations are commiting themselves to the fight against climate change. At the same time, however, they want to guarantee the security of the energy supply. This includes gradually phasing out coal and expanding renewable energies in a "socially just" manner.

But the West needs to end its energy dependency on Russia fast. Africa has enormous gas reserves that have not yet been tapped. Russian nickel supplies could be replaced by imports from Indonesia, a country that also has large coal deposits.

However, climate protection activists are sounding the alarm. "Public funds for new gas fields in the Global South are irresponsible in terms of development and climate policy," says Dagmar Pruin, president of aid agency Brot für die Welt.

The war is cutting off grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine. More than 800 million people are at acute risk of hunger worldwide. The seven major industrialized nations want to raise $4.5 billion to ensure food security. But is that enough? The chronically underfunded World Food Programme puts its current additional needs at around $28 billion. 

The financial aid pledged by the G7 is far too little to end the global food crisis, according to a statement from the aid organization Oxfam. "The decisions made at the Elmau summit are smoke and mirrors designed to distract from the G7's historic failure," it reads. "The G7 should have agreed that the debt should be canceled. But nothing of the sort has happened."

Oxfam protesters posing as G7 leaders
Climate activists were among the protesters on the sidelines of the summitImage: Angelika Warmuth/dpa/picture-alliance

Russian reaction to G7

The attempt by the G7 to forge closer alliances with emerging and developing democracies is viewed with suspicion by Moscow and Beijing. Russia and China will not stand idly by as the West seeks to expand its sphere of influence. This was also evident a few days before the G7 summit at a virtual meeting of the BRICS countries, which alongside Russia and China include Brazil, South Africa, and India.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called in a speech for more economic cooperation within the group and has now announced that he will be supplying more fertilizers to Brazil. But why only to Brazil? Was it a punishment following Indian and South African leaders' participation in the G7?

It will be interesting to see how the plans for the G20 summit, which is scheduled to take place on the Indonesian island of Bali in November, develop. Alongside China, Russia is also part of the G20 group of states. 

This article was originally written in German.

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