Solidarity behind Ukraine’s fight against Russia high on summit agenda

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FILE – An exterior view of the Elmau Castle Hotel which will host a G7 meeting, in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, May 17, 2022. Three consecutive summits over the next week will test Western resolve to support Ukraine and the measure of international unity as growing geopolitical tensions and economic difficulties cast an ever-longer shadow. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)

PA

Back-to-back summits of world leaders in Europe this weekend will focus on uniting Western nations behind Ukraine in its fight against invading Russia and overcoming Turkey’s opposition to membership Finland and Sweden to NATO.

The main economic powers of the Group of Seven – the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – are due to hold their annual gathering from Sunday to Tuesday in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the G-7 this year.

After the conclusion of the G-7, the leaders of the 30 countries of the NATO alliance will then meet for their annual summit, which will be held from Wednesday to Thursday in Madrid.

A look at some of the key issues and themes on the table as President Joe Biden prepares to join the two summits:

UKRAINIAN UNIT

Russia’s war in Ukraine will feature prominently on both summits as leaders seek to project a united front against the Kremlin’s aggression that has devastated Ukraine and plunged Europe and much of the world into economic and other crises.

Nations represented at back-to-back rallies have sent billions of dollars in aid and weapons to Ukraine and have closed ranks in their strident condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Ukraine received a boost on Thursday when European Union leaders swiftly and unanimously endorsed its bid to become a candidate for membership in the 27-nation bloc, though the membership process is likely to take some time. years.

The United States and the European Union have imposed damaging economic sanctions on the Moscow and Putin oligarchs, but major markets, including China and India, continue to buy Russian oil, mitigating the effects of Western sanctions .

NATO FOR FINLAND AND SWEDEN

A major unresolved issue for the NATO summit is the membership of Finland and Sweden.

Russia’s war in Ukraine scared the two Nordic countries enough to abandon their long-standing policies of neutrality and seek to join the military alliance. All 30 member nations must sign the applications. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg backs the bid, and Biden demonstrated his strong support by welcoming the leaders of both countries to the Oval Office.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has so far blocked their early admission, opposing membership and urging both countries to change their stance on Kurdish rebels whom Turkey considers terrorists.

All parties have tried to find a way out of the impasse, but whether Erdogan’s concerns can be addressed to his satisfaction in Madrid remains an open question. Sweden and Finland have been invited and are expected to attend.

COUNTER CHINA

Founded to contain the Soviet Union, NATO is about to declare for the first time that dealing with the rise of China is also part of its mission.

In Madrid, the alliance will unveil a new “strategic concept”, the first update of its guiding principles since 2010, which makes explicit reference to China’s challenges. The alliance has also invited Pacific leaders from Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia to the summit.

The document marks an important step in efforts by the United States, under several presidents, to extend the alliance’s focus to China, even in the face of an increasingly belligerent Russia.

The Biden administration argues that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has “strengthened” democracies in the face of threats from autocracies in Moscow and Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused NATO of trying to “trigger a new cold war” and warned against the alliance “drawing ideological lines that could induce confrontation. “.

CLIMATE

Leaders of G-7 economies are likely to approve a package of new climate change measures that effectively force countries to stop burning coal to generate electricity by 2035, transparently account for their subsidies to fossil fuels and ensure that electric cars dominate new car sales by the end of the decade.

Senior G-7 officials also recognized for the first time the need to provide developing countries with additional financial assistance to address the loss and damage already caused by global warming. Rich countries have long resisted such a move, fearing they would have to pay costly offsets for decades of greenhouse gas emissions.

Poor countries want the G-7 to commit real money, after seeing past promises of $100 billion in climate aid by 2020 go unfulfilled.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hopes they will also support his idea of ​​an international “climate club” whose members agree on minimum standards to avoid a patchwork of emission-related rules and tariffs.

ENERGY

Russia sees Europe’s need for natural gas as a problem that could weaken the alliance that backs Ukraine. This means Biden must ship as much liquefied natural gas from the United States to Europe as possible, which requires new terminals for shipping. Natural gas prices in US futures markets have risen about 70% so far this year.

Russia is also a major oil producer, and the war has driven global benchmark prices up around 40% so far this year, driving up gasoline prices in the United States and around the world. .

Biden sees gas at nearly $5 a gallon in the U.S. as a risk to his fellow Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, a look at the risks European leaders could face this winter due to costs natural gas.

Natural gas shortages and rising prices are putting enormous financial pressure on Germany, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, the Czech Republic and Denmark, among others.

Russia has reduced its exports of natural gas needed for electricity generation and heating, leading Germany, which relied on Russia for 35% of its gas imports, to appeal to factories to reduce their electricity consumption and turning to coal as a source of energy.

FOOD SAFETY

Summit participants will also discuss how Russia’s war is affecting global food security.

Russia is blocking the shipment of about 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain to the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia, which could worsen hunger and food security in these regions. A global fertilizer shortage is also of concern.

In response, Western powers pledged billions of dollars in aid. The UN has been working on a deal that would allow Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and allow Russia to bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

To deliver Ukraine’s food supplies to the world, Europe is also looking to increase shipments by rail and truck, but their efforts have only offset a fraction of the capacity of Black Sea ports. .

Russia attributes the crisis to Western sanctions, although the measures imposed by the Europeans do not prohibit the import and transport of Russian agricultural products or payment for Russian imports.

WORLD INFLATION AND THE ECONOMY

The fallout from rising food and energy prices looks likely to tip much of Europe into recession, creating troubling dynamics as Germany and other countries juggle both a high inflation and the risks of a severe recession.

G-7 leaders will likely focus on how to simultaneously encourage growth while reducing inflation, a unique challenge as central banks raise interest rates to slow economic activity.

The value of the euro has fallen over the past year against the US dollar, with many reports of a slowdown setting in.

Biden, meanwhile, is also pushing back on predictions from top economists that a US recession is likely. He told The Associated Press in an interview last week that a downturn was “not inevitable.”

But avoiding a recession would force the Federal Reserve to raise its benchmark interest rates in order to bring inflation down from a 40-year high without causing a spike in unemployment.

DOMESTIC SHADOWS

Biden will arrive at both summits in a politically different location than last year.

He is followed in Europe by a US public approval rating in 30 years – the lowest of his presidency – and consumers complaining about sticker shock at the grocery store and at the gas pump. He also faces the prospect of his party losing control of Congress in the November election.

While Biden is overseas, the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court could issue a long-awaited ruling potentially reversing the court’s landmark 1973 ruling, Roe v. Wade, who established a legal right to abortion.

Some of Biden’s counterparts are in a similar situation.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is weakened after surviving a recent vote of no confidence. He suffered further blows this week when voters rejected his Conservative party in two special elections and the party chairman resigned after the results were announced.

French President Emmanuel Macron overcame a tough challenge from a far-right rival to win re-election in April, but his centrist alliance then failed to secure an outright majority in parliamentary elections.

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Associated Press writers Josh Boak and Zeke Miller in Washington, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Mike Corder and Samuel Petrequin in Brussels, and Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.