G8 and NATO Summits: The Eight Key Players

By Alex Cyhaniuk
The Red Line Project

Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012

Economic and global security issues pervade the upcoming G8 and NATO summits, three DePaul University professors say.

And those issues will be addressed by these key political players – listed in no particular order -- from various nations for the summits:

Iran Flag1. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Role in the G8 and NATO summits:
Although an indirect player in NATO, Iranian nuclear proliferation figures so significantly into the summit that Ahmadinejad cannot be ignored.

“It’s really in nobody’s interest to let any more nuclear players into the club,” said Dr. Thomas Mockaitis, a DePaul history professor. "Military action to forestall Iran becoming a nuclear power should be the last resort. Right now diplomacy and sanctions appear to be working."

Further complicating matters is the unique relationship between NATO and Israel. Having finalized the Individual Cooperation Program (ICP), Israel is the first non-European member to engage in joint military exercises and intelligence sharing with NATO forces.            

Combined with the 2012 G8 Arab Spring agenda agenda, Ahmadinejad threatens future economic progress in the Middle East.

U.K. Flag2. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Significance in G8 and NATO summits: The third largest economy in Europe after Germany and France, the U.K. enjoys deep diplomatic ties with America, as well as the strongest military force outside of Russia on the continent.

As such, Cameron will be a leading figure in talks regarding job creation within the EU, and the current status of the Deauville Partnership, an agreement between G8 countries to assist North African and Arab democracies.

Having facilitated with the war in Afghanistan, Cameron’s input regarding the withdrawal of troops, and the country’s transition toward independence, will be widely considered.

France Flag3. Francois Hollande, President of the French Republic (projected election winner)

Significance in G8 and NATO summits:
Having played an integral role in the NATO-led military strikes in Libya, it will be interesting to note whether the internal dynamics among NATO leaders has shifted. Hollande, winning the first in a series of two elections, may choose to use G8 and NATO to signify the start of his presidency.

In non-proliferation dialogues, France has been known to dispute the notion of “Negative Security Assurances,” refusing to believe that nuclear-armed nations will never contemplate using WMDs on non-nuclear states. This ideological disparity between France and the 27 other NATO allies could undermine the 2012 agenda of Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR).

As the second largest international aid contributor, France has encouraged enlarging the G8. Whether these political positions apply to Hollande once he assumes office remains to be seen.

“The [G8] needs to grow to incorporate more small and developing countries,” said Dr. Patricia Werhane, Wicklander Chair of Business Ethics at DePaul. 

China Flag4. Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China

Significance in G8 and NATO summits
: As the biggest exporter and second largest economy worldwide, China is part of the G8+5. Yet, Jintao’s significance does not lay solely in economics. The G8 will also address topics such as renewable energy, environmental protectionism and food development abroad, all areas China has been criticized for in the past.

"The G8 began as the G6 (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States), expanded to the G7 by adding Canada, and then to the G8 by allowing Russia to join,” Mockaitis said. “Further expansion to include countries like China and India seems likely at some point."

Interactive map: Click on the pins to read about the leaders from the NATO countries.

View G8/NATO Nations Map in a larger map

German Flag5. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

Significance in G8 and NATO summits:
Boasting the fifth-largest economy in the world and the biggest in Europe, Germany will be a significant factor in G8 discussions surrounding the Euro-zone economic crisis. Attending her sixth G8 summit, Merkel has worked actively with German finance ministers to establish stricter fiscal policies for the European Union (EU) and Greece.

During the 2011 G8 summit, Merkel emphasized economic support for emerging Arab democracies such as Egypt and Tunisia, as well as investing in renewable energy technologies.

“Germany has economic growth and they have control of their debt. They have high unemployment, but they know it,” Werhane said when asked who she believed was the European country with the brightest economic future.

As one of the primary burden-sharers for NATO, Germany will likely call for a more sufficient distribution of economic and military responsibility, which could jeopardize the newest item on NATO’s agenda: Smart Defense. Germany and, by extension, Merkel, oppose North Korean and Iranian nuclear proliferation.

Japan Flag6. Yoshihiko Noda, Prime Minister of Japan

Significance in G8 and NATO summits:
Despite its debt exceeding 200 percent of its GDP, Japan remains a leading technology manufacturer and the fourth-largest market in the world. Along with China and India, Japan embodies the growing economic clout of the Asian-Pacific region.

“The Japanese just go on and on. They’re amazing,” Werhane said of Japan’s financial resilience.

Not officially a part of NATO, Noda is invited as a representative in the hopes of further expanding what originally began as an Atlantic-only organization.

American Flag7. President Barack Obama

Significance in G8 and NATO summits:
The U.S. has the largest military and economy in the world. As host country for the G8, Obama determines the summit agenda, which will likely include forums on unemployment and global debt. In light of growing transatlantic discord, Obama’s focus will be on solidarity so that Smart Defense, burden sharing and the Deauville Partnership become global realities.

The cornerstones of the NATO agenda remain in the Middle East, as Obama and his cabinet have expressed security concerns regarding Afghanistan, Libya, and even perpetual ally Israel.

“Obama is simply a representation of American interests in the G8,” Dr. Khalil Marrar, professor of political science at DePaul University, said. These interests include: stability, freedom of movement and consensus reaching among international nations, he said.

Russia Flag8. Vladimir Putin, President-elect of Russia

Significance in G8 and NATO summits:Despite being a member of the Partnership for Peace, Putin is only expected to attend G8. But even his absence makes him a key NATO player.

With the strongest military force in Europe and the sixth largest world economy, Russia has a tenuous relationship with NATO. Originally created to counter the U.S.S.R., NATO members have since expressed disappointment with Russian support of the Assad regime in Syria. In Europe alone, Russia has stonewalled attempts by the Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO and refused to cooperate with the U.S. in constructing mutual defense missile silos.

“Russia has a lot of internal house cleaning to do,” Marrar said when speaking of Putin’s reelection. “At the same time, attending [NATO] is more important than ever, especially in matters that concern Syria.”

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