One could use a hero from ancient mythology to describe the challenge facing the heads of state and government of the economically strong democracies that await them at the G7 summit in Elmau at the weekend. Something like this: What they are planning is more complicated than the difficult tasks of Hercules, which he solved with strength and brains.
Because King Eurystheus had given him twelve tasks that he could work through one after the other: first kill the lion, then muck out the Augean stables, then the next task. On the other hand, the problems that the summit has to deal with have the unpleasant quality that they are all interrelated. If the G7 leaders turn a screw, a mechanism somewhere in the great world machine reacts immediately.
The technical term for this is interdependence. It is easy to see how everything is connected to everything else today. Originally, the G7 wanted to focus on getting the economy, which had been badly hit by the two-year corona pandemic, up and running again. But since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, it has now been subjected to new brutal stress tests. And it’s not just Russia’s boycott of grain shipments to Ukraine that’s affecting people elsewhere in the world who are now starving.
Western sanctions also have an impact on third parties, for example by decoupling Russian energy from driving world market prices even higher. Activists are already warning that the search for alternative sources of oil is accelerating petroleum production in regions where threatened indigenous peoples live and ecological catastrophes threaten. Weak economic growth, the consequences of war, the global fight against climate change, food security, Covid protection – no problem can be dealt with without consequences for another.
Now no one has to feel sorry for the G7 leaders, because the world didn’t give them the mandate for their tasks – they took it from themselves. Despite representing only 10 percent of the world’s population, representatives of some of the world’s wealthiest nations make decisions that matter to billions of people. This has often been criticized. But if they do the right thing this time, it will be a powerful argument against doubts about their mandate.
The fact that the West is missing important partners in condemning the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, whose populations represent almost half the world, is easily overlooked: Many emerging and developing countries reject the G7 interpretation and do not make Russia, but Western sanctions responsible for high energy and food prices.
Olaf Scholz’s warning that the world could split into a “G7 plus” group and a “Brics plus” group (“Brics” are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is justified. It is therefore a reasonable approach to invite Indonesia, India, South Africa, Senegal and Argentina to Elmau. To condemn these partners for their stance on Russia would be foolish and self-defeating, they must be wooed instead.
The summit must therefore not only put together a package that guarantees long-term financing for Ukraine. If the democratic industrialized countries do not also prove that they can find effective answers to the overlapping crises and, in doing so, also take the interests of the Global South very carefully into account, the West will continue to lose credibility and influence. Potential partners will keep their distance. Because the following applies: If you don’t want autocracies to gain even more power and influence, you need friends around the world – especially among the emerging and developing countries. The policy of wooing them must therefore continue after the summit.