It’s always hard to make predictions, but it can be safely said that no such thing as Western unity exists anymore.
Those who are unfriendly toward Russia keep on spreading the myth that Moscow is isolated on the world stage. The reality is quite different, but the idea of Russia as an outcast who has been expelled from the international community is something they badly want to be true. The fact that Russia is not a member of the G7 is usually used as an example to prove this point. The group’s 2018 summit is to take place in Charlevoix, Quebec, June 8-9. The attendees are supposed to be a united group of key global players who are coordinating their efforts to lead the world in the right direction. And now, what has happened just before this annual event?
May 31 will go down in history as the day the US declared war on its key allies, hitting the European Union, Canada, and Mexico with aluminum and steel tariffs. This was a punch to the gut that unleashed the much-dreaded trade war. Levi’s jeans, Kentucky bourbon, Harley-Davidson motorbikes, orange juice, T-shirts, and Iowa beef are doomed to bear the brunt of retaliatory strikes. The Boeing Corp. may be among the losers.
The EU will hit back on June 20 after lodging complaints with the WTO.
On June 1, President Trump hinted he could ax the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He would prefer separate trade deals with Mexico and Canada. Stock prices slumped as a result. It looks like NAFTA is in for the same fate as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier believes that the EU, Mexico, and Canada may join together in their efforts to counter the US. Japan is likely to join the EU, asking the WTO to go to bat for it. On June 1, its finance minister. Taro Aso. used harsh language to describe US trade policy after attending the gathering of the G7 finance chiefs. According to French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, the June 8-9 event is going to be a meeting held in a “G6 plus one” format.
So far, the US has not acted within the framework of the WTO, citing national security interests to justify the unilateral measures it is taking. Its legal standing is on shaky ground. No doubt the EU will refer the case to that organization. The outcome is unknown. The European complaints are well-founded, but Washington enjoys strong influence there, and some countries may be willing to join the pro-US faction. The result? The WTO may end up divided, lose its clout, or even cease to exist, giving way to other groups, such as BRICS, for instance, where the US is not a member.
The US and many European nations are divided over the sanctions against Russia. The pressure being applied to coerce the allies into accepting or rejecting certain deals is provoking resistance. The American financiers who are trying to subjugate Europe through behind-the-scenes schemes are facing vigorous opposition. European gold is gradually draining out of the US Federal Reserve System’s vaults.
The amassed problems that are clouding Transatlantic solidarity have made German Chancellor Angela Merkel come to the conclusion that America’s global influence is being diminished and Europe should “take its destiny into its own hands” and stop relying on US military protection. Europe is in the process of creating its own independent means of deterrence and PESCO is the first step. New defense alliances without the US are on the agenda.
Add to that the opposition of the UK, Germany, and France to the US unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. There are expectations that America will face “a united European front” at the EU summit scheduled for June 28-29 in Bulgaria. Some European states, such as Germany and Austria, have expressed indignation over the flagrant US pressure to make them say no to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring cheap Russian gas to the continent. The EU-Western Balkans meeting held last month was a foretaste of the open defiance the US policy will receive at top-level international forums.
Now back to “isolation.” Whatever the formal agenda — gender equality, ocean pollution, or other issues — the divisions between America and the other members will be in the spotlight. Despite all of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s efforts to make the event look like a success, the US president, an outlier on everything the other summit attendees agree on, is doomed to be the odd man out. The G7 runs on a consensus basis. No atmosphere of cooperation on any issue can be fostered amid such deep rifts.
The new Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who leads a populist government that is hostile to the EU and NATO and wants the sanctions against Russia lifted with no strings attached, will hardly be the right man to contribute to what is known as Western unity.
It’s hard to say if they will agree to make any declaration, but it’s easy to predict that fault lines, even invisible ones, will open up within the G7, although there is also the strong possibility of an open breakup. After the summit is over, the need for such meetings in the future will inevitably be questioned. It’s always hard to make predictions, but it can be safely said that no such thing as Western unity exists anymore. Unlike Moscow, Washington is isolated, and no matter how hard some political circles have tried, the Russian bogeyman has failed to work as a unifying factor that can hold the G7 together in the face of the radical changes that are shaping the emerging multipolar world.
Top Photo | Demonstrators against the G20 Summit stand on stage wearing masks depicting from left: British Prime Minister Theresa May, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, in Hamburg, Germany, July 2, 2017. (Axel Heimken/AP)