On Russia's Participation in Group of Eight
Russia's first contacts with the Group of Seven occurred in the Soviet era. On July 17, 1991, the Soviet Union's President Mikhail Gorbachev met G7 leaders on the sidelines of the G7 summit in London.
Later G7 leaders used the same format for meeting the Russian President, in Munich in 1992 and in Tokyo in 1993. The result was establishing direct interaction between the G7 and Russia on a number of international political and economic issues.
The formation of the G8 began at the Naples summit in 1994. Its first part was held in the G7 format, and the second involved the Russian President as an equal partner.
The most important stage for further development of the G8 was the 1995 summit in Halifax. It gave a new impetus for establishing practical cooperation on a number of global problems and for creating G8 working mechanisms involving Russia.
Russia's proposal about holding a G8 summit on nuclear security in Moscow on April 19-20, 1996, which was to be co-chaired by the Russian and French Presidents, was of principal importance for its joining the club.
Russia's cooperation with its partners reached a new level at the Lyons summit in June 1996. On the Russian leadership's proposal, the summit was divided into three stages. The first one, held in the G7 format, was devoted to a number of international economic issues, while the other two involved Russia and dealt with the entire rage of global and political problems.
The Denver summit in June 1997 was held as a meeting of equal G8 partners. In the final communiqué, the partners recognized that Russia was "completing historical transition to a democratic state with a market economy."
On Russia's proposal, it was decided to develop the G8 cooperation in energy security and to hold a G8 ministers' meeting in Moscow to discuss global energy problems. The meeting took place on March 31 – April 1, 1998.
The summit in Birmingham in May 1998 had three major issues on the agenda: employment, efforts against organized crime and global economic issues, including the South-East Asian crisis. On Russia's proposal, global energy problems were taken up. It was decided to hold a ministers' conference on fighting organized crime in Moscow. It took place on October 19-20, 1999.
The G8 summit in Cologne in June 1999 focused on global economic development.
At the summit, Russia proposed such large-scale initiatives as to work out the 21st Century World Concept for the 2000 summit, for the G8 to discuss legal issues of using force in international relations in the globalization era at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, as well as to create a global system to control non-proliferation of missiles and missile technologies.
At the Okinawa summit in July 2000, Russia promoted the idea of socially responsible globalization, focused on strategic stability, struggle against terrorism (with special emphasis on the terrorist threat emanating from the Talib Afghanistan), information security, Russia's integration in the global economy and the settlement on the Korean Peninsula.
At the G8 summit in Genoa on July 20-22, 2001, discussions centered around problems of ensuring stable development of humankind in the globalization era, including such aspects as fight against poverty and bridging the gap between industrialized and developing countries in such spheres as healthcare, education and high technologies. With Russia's active participation, the summit adopted a number of practical resolutions designed to solve these problems.
In Genoa, it was decided to introduce additional measures to open G8 national markets for goods from developing countries. In this connection, Russia announced its intention to join the EU initiative "Everything But Arms."
After Genoa, the G8 had to re-orient itself to countering terrorism. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, G8 leaders adopted a joint statement on Russia's initiative on September 19. It proclaimed anti-terrorist activities one of its priorities. In compliance with the statement, the Group of Eight launched intensive work to intensify international cooperation in countering terrorism under the UN auspices. With the club's decisive contribution, the international anti-terrorist coalition has been set up and is now working successfully, the UN Security Council's Counter Terrorism Committee is functioning efficiently, and anti-terrorist interaction in other spheres is developing.
A significant indication of Russia's strengthening position in the G8 and reaching a new qualitative level in its relations with its partners came with the historical decision at the summit in Kananaskis, Canada, in June 2002, to entrust Russia with G8 rotating Presidency in 2006. The move testified to the partners' recognition of Russia's growing role in the modern world.
With Russia's active participation, the Kananaskis summit discussed a wide range of inter-related problems of international security and strategic stability, including non-proliferation regimes, arms and disarmament control.
Another landmark was the endorsement of the G8 Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which sought not only to promote disarmament, but also to prevent terrorists' access to such weapons.
Russia was also actively involved in other discussions in Kananaskis: global fight against poverty and ensuring stable development, the state of the world's economy and Africa's problems.
The country once again showed its role as an influential member of the club at the G8 summit in Evian, France, in June 2003, which was held in a complicated international situation, aggravated by the consequences of the war in Iraq. Russian President Vladimir Putin made a significant contribution to restoring mutual trust and partnership relations between G8 leaders both at the summit and before it, inviting the world's leaders to the celebrations devoted to St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary.
With Russia's active participation, the Evian summit adopted new practical decisions on fighting terrorism: a Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG) was set up to provide targeted aid to third countries in their efforts against terrorism.
In Evian, Russia for the first time took part in preparing all financial and economic documents for the summit, which was an important step towards its final integration in the club's financial and economic structures. To develop these positive trends and to help stabilize the global economy, after the Evian summit Russia proposed early payment of part of its debt to the Paris Club. The summit also supported the Russian initiative of using the concept of exchanging developing countries' debts for investment in their economies to boost their development.
With Russia's active participation, the Evian summit made a groundbreaking decision to establish cooperation in the most promising scientific and technical spheres, such as hydrogen power generation, bio and agricultural technologies, and global monitoring of climate change, which increased opportunities for Russia's scientific and technical interaction with other G8 countries.
At the summit in Sea Island, the United States, on June 8-10, 2004, Russia continued strengthening the role of the G8 in collective decision-making on the most pressing issues of global politics and economy. With its active participation, the meeting worked out and adopted the Secure and Facilitated International Travel Initiative (SAFTI), which provides for 28 specific areas of cooperation.
Among the club's joint achievements in counterterrorism is efficient and coordinated efforts of its members, who in 2005 adopted a consensus International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, initiated by Russia. The Convention creates preconditions for completing work on the UN draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
In 2005, during Britain's rotating Presidency in the G8, the club paid special attention to working out common approaches to the problems of Africa's development and overcoming negative consequences of climate change, as well as developing environmentally safe sources of energy.
The document on Africa adopted at Gleneagles envisages a set of measures to increase assistance to the continent, including in such spheres as ensuring economic growth, financing development, improving education and healthcare and strengthening its peacekeeping potential.
The plan of action on climate change sets out practical steps in such priority areas as introduction of energy- and resource-saving technologies, increase in energy consumption efficiency, including in the industry, transport and in households, and provision of the necessary research and development base.
Russia's position as an equal G8 member in the financial and economic sphere was strengthened by its dynamic economic development in the last four years, responsible policies on global energy markets, timely payment of foreign debts, active participation in writing off the debts of the poorest countries. Russia's contribution to fight against famine and dangerous diseases in Africa and Asia has also increased.
So far, Russia has written off or undertaken to write off $11.3 billion of African countries' debt, of which $2 billion will be written off within the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. The Russian Federation helps to finance the Global Fund to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Its contribution in 2002-2006 is $20 million, of which $12.5 million has already been paid. Russia also took part in financing the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, contributing $8 million in 2003-2005.
A successful first Presidency in the Group of Eight is one of Russia's foreign policy priorities. The work on the contents and organization of the summit is progressing successfully. Priority issues during Russia’s G8 Presidency will be international energy security, fight against contagious diseases and education.
At the same time, the summit in St. Petersburg will take up such traditional topics as counterterrorism, WMD non-proliferation, fight against organized crime and drug trafficking, environmental and other global problems, topical issues of the global economy, finances and trade, and escalating regional conflicts.