Experts hold contradictory opinions about the G8 summit's results Was the G8 summit a success for Russia?
When respondents in a recent poll were asked whether Russia can be called a full-fledged G8 member, about a third said yes and another third said no. The experts we approached for comments on the St. Petersburg summit also differed in their views.
The 32nd summit of the Group of Eight, the first to be chaired by Russia, is over. On July 17, the Yuri Levada Analytical Center released the results of a poll in which 1,600 people were asked what they thought of this event. Most respondents (62%) said that Russia plays a secondary role in the G8. When asked whether Russia can be called a full-fledged G8 member, about a third of respondents said yes and another third said no.
The experts we approached for comments on the St. Petersburg summit also differed in their views.
After the summit, President Vladimir Putin spoke quite positively of its achievements. "I was satisfied with the businesslike and very friendly atmosphere present throughout the summit," he told journalists on July 17. Earlier, Putin said that all of the Russian delegation's goals had been achieved and all the documents scheduled for signing "were accepted with hardly any changes."
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma's international affairs committee, told us that the outcome of the summit for Russia can be "unambivalently" described as successful. In his view, Russia not only managed to promote its own projects, but was also able to propose "a truly relevant agenda" for the summit. Russia's agenda focused on three basic issues: energy security, education, and infectious diseases. "These matters are of equal interest for all G8 countries, and, most importantly, there was focused and very specific discussion on all of them," said Kosachev. "Thus, Russia demonstrated its position, its rolein the modern world as a global power bearing equal responsibility with other world powers for the processes under way worldwide." But the summit agenda was altered significantly by the situation in the Middle East. "Naturally, a great deal of attention was paid to that issue," said Kosachev. "But I think it was a unique opportunity for the world community's leaders to practise consolidated real-time decision-making in response to such an acute crisis as the Israeli-Lebanese conflict." Ordinary citizens may be skeptical about Russia's place in the G8, but Kosachev is absolutely convinced that Russia has become a full-fledged member. Overall, he maintains that "there certainly weren't any failures" for Russia at the summit.
As always, an onlooker's perspective is somewhat different from the official view. Irina Khakamada, president of the Our Choice Foundation, pointed out that Russia didn't actually manage to reach agreement on some key issues. "No success with the World Trade Organization, nor with the prospect of signing the European Energy Charter," said Khakamada. "It seems to me that the summit was of a political nature, symbolic for Putin." Moreover, Khakamada says that the summit could have improved Russia's international standing significantly - but the Russian authorities wasted this opportunity, so the summit chaired by Russia hasn't had any impact on that issue. Things might have been different "if Russia, in the lead-up to the summit, had accepted the idea of building a real democratic society and correspondingly open foreign policy." Then the Western nations really would have regarded Russia as an equal partner. "And then we would have reached agreement on WTO accession, and energy security, and real security in the area of fighting terrorism. Without that, everything seemed confined to symbols and gestures," said Khakamada.
In the Levada Center's poll, 53% of the respondents who do not consider Russia a full-fledged G8 member say this is because our country lags behind the advanced nations in economic development. Mikhail Delyagin, chairman of the presidium at the Globalization Institute, thinks likewise.
Delyagin maintains that Russia cannot be a full-fledged G8 member at present, because it's still an underdeveloped country. "And everyone knows that Comrade Putin, not Russia, is the G8 member," says Delyagin. "Russia is quite separate from that, and everyone is well aware that as soon as oil prices fall, Russia's place in the G8 will be groundless." In Delyagin's view, while the summit was successful for Russia at the formal level, in reality nothing has changed. "But it's a discussion club, so it isn't necessarily required to produce results. What's more, the developed nations accepted both Russia's domestic and foreign policies, and that's a great success for Putin, of course. It's important to note that the question wasn't whether agreement could be reached on Russia's key issues. The real question was whether Russia would be criticized. And no harsh criticism was heard at the summit."
Translated by Elena Leonova