Saturday, July 15, 2006

G-8: Reaction to presidential press conference

In yesterday’s National Interest briefing, Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Nixon Center, observed that if nothing substantial emerges from this G-8 meeting to get the U.S.-Russia partnership back on track, the “political cycles” in both countries would begin to work against any improvement in relations.

Today’s press conference was not reassuring. To be sure, the proposals for a new international regime for the control of enriched uranium and spent fuel were promising, as well as the promise of a U.S.-Russia civil nuclear agreement. The rhetorical focus on the continued threat of nuclear terrorism was also significant, since, as Graham Allison, a member of the TNI briefing team, noted in his remarks, this is the one overriding threat to the peace, security and prosperity of the entire international community.

However, the fact that an agreement clearing the way for Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organization could not be announced (since negotiations are ongoing), the only sign of progress on Iran and North Korea that could be put forward was that both states share a common message (and, as Allison remarked yesterday, the G-8 last year at Gleaneagles had given a clear message to North Korea)—without any substantive details about how this common message could be translated into concrete action, clear signs of disagreement over what to do about the ongoing crisis in the Middle East—all of these factors indicate that the St. Petersburg summit is not going to produce major breakthroughs that demonstrate either how relevant the U.S.-Russia partnership is for global security, or, one might add, the real utility of the G-8 summit process itself.

“Iran should not have a nuclear weapon or the capability to develop one” is a position that is likely to gain ready acceptance. Yet “should not” does not necessarily mean “will not” nor does it guarantee any agreement as to the means that can and should be used to force Iranian compliance.

It was also significant that the erstwhile theme of this summit meeting—energy security—was not discussed at all, reflecting Robin West’s point on Friday about the lack of a common definition as to what constitutes energy security.

The presidents continue to show signs of a good personal working relationship—and President Bush euphemistically labeled concerns about democracy and human rights as a “discussion” about “philosophy” of government and governing; but Bush also alluded to real difficulties in moving the relationship further when he noted that, for example, any agreement about Russian accession to the WTO would have to be passed by Congress. Putin, for his part, made it clear that in any issue, from the WTO to policy toward the Middle East, he would be guided by his vision of what was best for Russia’s national interests, and that Russia wanted its perspective to be taken seriously.

If the two presidents could not, in their press conference today, offer concrete steps for dealing with Iranian recalcitrance, with North Korea’s refusal to come back to the negotiating table, and preventing the violence in the Middle East from spiraling out of control, it seems unlikely that the larger meeting of all eight leaders will produce anything other than a bland consensus position that hits all the right points but lacks specific details for execution.

How do you interpret the current resolution about N. Korea passed by UNSC? What is it's use? Will anything similar to that be passed for Iran?

Also with Lebanon now openly accusing USA in blocking 'cease fire' resolution at UN; what impact will it have on G8 meetings?
Umesh Patil:

My opinion:

the current resolution about N. Korea passed by UNSC is insignificant. It does not harm North Korea. (Transfer of technology to and from North Korea can take the form of blue-prints and know-how that will be impossible to track or interdict.)

The chances of a seriously damaging resolution against Iran at USNC are nil. There is sonw-ball's chance in hell that Russian and Chinese Governments would go along with a rsolution that would help expedite the completion of US hegemony in the Persian Gulf and the immediate vicinity.

G8 meetings have never been, to my knowledge, anything but PR. Not much of substance has been acciomplished there this time either.
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