Despite much talk about dealing with issues both past performance and present promises do not augur well

Lindsey German

This weekend sees the world’s most powerful leaders gathering in Cornwall for the G7 summit. As US president Joe Biden flies into Britain today we are being met with the usual claims that these people are meeting to solve the many problems facing the world. The truth is rather different.

The world system is faced with huge challenges – the pandemic, climate change, inequality and poverty, war and militarism. Yet we know that despite much fine talk about dealing with such issues both past performance and present promises do not augur well. After all the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, promised to make poverty history and nearly 20 years later poverty is worse. The limited promise of G7 finance ministers to make multinationals pay more taxes, made only last week, is already being kicked against both in the US and the City of London. So we should be highly sceptical about the grandiose claims which will issue from Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and the rest over the next few days. Their pledges to deal with climate change, promote international justice, end war and curb the power of the multinationals, will amount to little.

One key area of debate at the G7 will be international issues. Here the grouping is likely to spend much time talking about Russia, which it talks up as a major threat but whose military power is slim compared to that of the US alone, leaving aside the other military powers in the G7. In reality, Biden knows this but is still prepared to use the supposed threat. While we recognise a new cold war over China we should not forget that the old cold war is still in place with Russia. Biden’s presidency is hawkish over this issue and over its support for the right-wing government in Ukraine against Russia.

Despite there being a summit between Biden and Putin following the G7, there is likely to be at least a lot of rhetoric against the ‘Russian threat’ and increased commitment to military spending and deployment near Russia’s borders. The meeting of NATO in Brussels which Biden will also attend next week will echo these themes. NATO troops are now stationed and doing exercises right up to the Russian border. NATO is demanding a strengthening of its resources and enlargement of its membership.

Biden will also be trying to garner support for his new cold war with China, particularly from European leaders. China as a growing economic and military rival is a real threat to US hegemony and power, and the US fears that its trade with other countries threatens US dominance.

The Middle East will also be a major focus, especially given the recent uprising of the Palestinians which has upset all the calculations both of Netanyahu (now to be replaced as prime minister by even more right-wing Naftali Bennett) and of Biden himself, who essentially kept in place many of the policies introduced by Trump and who refused for several days to back a ceasefire through the UN.

Boris Johnson is claiming that he doesn’t want talk of a special relationship between the US and Britain because this tends to belittle Britain and suggest that it does not have an independent role. The truth however is that it doesn’t have such a role and is totally in lockstep as a very junior partner with the US – witness the US planes and troops on the new aircraft carrier’s maiden voyage to the South China Sea.

There is much to protest about at the G7, but politicians and police have done their best to curtail such activities. Policing the summit in Cornwall is costing a staggering £70 million. Roads have been closed for miles around, and the homeless moved out of hotels to make way for police and staff.  They have allocated specific ‘protest zones’ miles away from the gathering, which are quite rightly being ignored by many protestors. In London a major protest about Palestine will focus on Downing Street while the G7 is on – given the role of Biden and Johnson in supporting Israel this is the key question of international justice. Stop the War will be part of these protests and of the No to NATO events in Brussels.

The summit only highlights that war, militarism, environmental destruction, poverty and global inequality are hardwired into the system. So there is much to protest about.

09 Jun 2021 by Lindsey German

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