G7 can play pivotal role in bolstering security in Ukraine

Andrew Hammond warns that new president faces massive challenges

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 2:58am

The G7 meets in Brussels this week for a summit whose focal point will be the Ukraine crisis. Following the election of Petro Poroshenko as the country's next president, leaders from the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada will discuss how best to enable the goals of Ukrainian territorial integrity and promote wider economic and political stability in the country.

Despite an extensive wider agenda for the summit, the core security theme will be reinforced by the historical commemorative events this week for the 70th anniversary of the second world war D-Day landings.

The G7 meeting comes at a key moment in Ukraine, with some viewing the election of the pro-Western billionaire Poroshenko - who served as foreign minister from 2009 to 2010 and trade minister in 2012 - as a watershed moment. However, the challenges ahead of him are massive.

To this end, the G7 will consider further measures to stabilise the new government in Kiev, including an energy security plan, which could be unveiled at the summit. The plan aims to weaken the potential for Russia to use energy as a political weapon against Ukraine this coming winter by cutting off gas supplies.

Proposals under consideration include eliminating US export restrictions on shale gas, and building more liquid gas terminals in Europe to supply Ukraine. More broadly, European leaders are also looking to reduce their own dependence on Russian gas, which accounts for 40 per cent of the continent's overall gas supply. To lower this figure, Europe is reportedly planning to expand supply from Africa and invest in new pipeline infrastructure to transport gas from west to east Europe.

On the aid front, the US, European Union and International Monetary Fund have pledged a financial package reportedly of around US$27 billion to Ukraine over the next two years.

This is one reason why Poroshenko called last week not just for stronger G7 sanctions on Russia, but also more direct military aid and assistance to Ukraine. And he wants this underpinned by a new security treaty.

The central role of the G7 in orchestrating the West's response to Russia's annexation of Crimea underlines the organisation's often under-appreciated importance as an international security linchpin. To be sure, this fact is not without criticism. Some, for instance, highlight that the G7 lacks the legitimacy of the United Nations, and/or is a historical artefact, given the rise of new economic powers, including China, India and Brazil, which have larger economies than many existing G7 members.

While such criticism is valid, the fact remains that the G7/G8 (which includes Russia) has accumulated a significant track record in the security field, despite the fact that it was originally conceived to monitor developments in the world economy and assess economic policies.

An early example of the potentially powerful security role that the G7 can play in world affairs was in the 1970s and 1980s when it helped coordinate the Western strategy towards the then-Soviet Union.

More recently, following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the G8 assumed a key role in the US-led campaign against terrorism.

Taken overall, G7 leaders will therefore be keen to use this week's platform to bolster their response to the crisis following the election of Poroshenko. While his election offers a new opportunity to stabilise the Kiev government, the situation in the country could yet deteriorate significantly in the months ahead.

Andrew Hammond is an associate at LSE IDEAS and a former UK government special adviser