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Bruised Leaders Prepare for the G-7 Summit

The group may make progress on Ukraine commitments, but more ambitious programs—especially on climate change—are likely out of reach.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
The Schloss Elmau luxury hotel
The Schloss Elmau luxury hotel
The Schloss Elmau luxury hotel is seen in Krün, Germany, on May 17. Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the G-7 summit, the EU’s latest Ukraine moves, and the BRICS global development dialogue.

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The G-7 Approaches

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the G-7 summit, the EU’s latest Ukraine moves, and the BRICS global development dialogue.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


The G-7 Approaches

The G-7 summit begins this Sunday in the Bavarian Alps, where the picturesque surroundings will contrast with a darker outlook for some of the world’s leading nations.

Mostly remembered for its family photographs, the G-7 (comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States— with the European Union making it plus eight) last met in the English seaside town of Cornwall, where the leaders failed to deliver on expectations of climate action ahead of the United Nations climate change summit, a preview of dashed hopes soon to come at the Glasgow, Scotland, gathering.

This year’s summit takes place at Schloss Elmau, a castle and luxury hotel, which also played host to the 2015 G-7 summit. Even if it was only seven years ago, that previous edition seems almost quaint in comparison, with (pre-Brexit) David Cameron leading Britain, (pre-retirement) Angela Merkel leading Germany, and (pre-Netflix) Barack Obama leading the United States.

The joint statement following that summit signaled some of the challenges ahead, however: condemnations of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and North Korea’s nuclear program paired with exhortations to complete the Iran deal and to integrate Pacific economies into the (now-rebranded) Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“It’s hard to see much coming out of this summit, after a string of G-7 summits that similarly accomplished very little,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, told Foreign Policy by email.

“The G-7 is in deepening trouble, much of it self-inflicted. Most of the governments are weak. [U.S. President Joe] Biden’s approval continues to sink; [British Prime Minister Boris] Johnson’s approval rating is sinking; [French President Emmanuel] Macron is without a majority; Italy is in a state of uncertainty and is increasingly divided over the approach to the war in Ukraine; Germany is facing a severe energy crisis; and the U.S. and EU are most likely falling into a recession,” he added.

With the original seven facing such a dreary political climate, the group has expanded the invite list to include the leaders of Senegal, current chair of the African Union; Argentina, currently president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States; as well as India, Indonesia, and South Africa.

Germany, which began its G-7 presidency in January by placing climate action as its No. 1 priority, will find it difficult to deliver on its pledges now that keeping the lights on has taken precedence over changing the power source.

After G-7 countries agreed to “accelerate the international transition away from coal” (without committing to a timeline) in Cornwall, the most polluting of all fossil fuels is back as gas shortages prompt a rethink of energy supplies. Both Germany and Italy have announced plans to restart mothballed coal plants as a result.

Even if grander projects have failed to catch on in the past, that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm. On Wednesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz floated an ambitious idea of a Marshall Plan for Ukraine based on the post-World War II project that helped reinvigorate Europe’s economies. Scholz called such an initiative “a task for generations” and pointed to the G-7 as a forum to discuss what shape it should take.

If Schloss Elmau proves to deliver more rhetoric than substance on Ukraine, the leaders (with the exception of Japan) will have another chance next Wednesday when NATO leaders gather in Madrid.


What We’re Following Today

Another blow to Boris Johnson. The British Conservative Party lost both by-elections on Thursday, losing to the Liberal Democrats in the formerly safe seat of Tiverton and Honiton in southwestern England and to the Labour Party in the northern seat of Wakefield. The challengers won both constituencies by significant margins. Johnson, speaking from Rwanda, vowed to carry on despite increasing dissatisfaction with his leadership among members of his own party.

Oliver Dowden, a longtime Johnson loyalist, resigned as party chair on Friday morning. “We cannot carry on with business as usual,” Dowden said. “Somebody must take responsibility, and I have concluded that, in these circumstances, it would not be right for me to remain in office.”

EU Council meetings finish up. EU heads of state and government gather again today in Brussels, with the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine topping the agenda. On Thursday, the EU leaders approved Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership alongside Moldova. The bloc also left the door open for Georgia, but it has yet to confirm its candidacy. Ukraine’s new status is seen as a symbolic measure as it joins Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Turkey, and Serbia in the EU waiting room.

BRICS concludes. The week of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) gatherings culminates with a virtual summit focused on global development, with the leaders of Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates expected to join the heads of BRICS nations. The meeting follows Thursday’s BRICS summit, where the five countries issued a joint 75-point statement that included support for talks between Russia and Ukraine and a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.


Keep an Eye On

Russia-Belarus ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Saturday for formal talks following a two-day informal session at the Russian president’s Zavidovo retreat. The meetings come as Belarus undertakes military exercises in its southeastern Gomel Region, which continue until July 1.

Bolsonaro’s cash plan. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is considering increasing monthly cash transfers to poor Brazilians as the country experiences high fuel prices and steep inflation. The cash program has helped Bolsonaro hold on to some support even as other sectors of the public are prepared to move on. The Brazilian president has ground to make up on his election challenger, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, with a new poll showing Lula just 3 percentage points shy of winning the presidency without the need of a runoff vote.


FP Recommends

If you spend enough time on Twitter, you’ll begin to see public figures try on different personas in bids for attention: Octogenarian U.S. senators will begin posting Gen Z memes, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will try his hand at pop culture commentary, Republican presidential hopefuls will try (and mostly fail) to match former U.S. President Donald Trump’s unique bombast.

For former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the transformation has been something close to the latter, as the formerly reserved Kremlin official has morphed into a hawkish nationalist. FP’s Amy Mackinnon charts his evolution in a new report that sheds light on the challenges of remaining in Putin’s circle.


Odds and Ends

The last three living descendants of Empress Joséphine (born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie), wife of former French leader Napoleon Bonaparte, are suing a French far-right politician for appropriating their last name.

The plaintiffs argue that Emmanuel Taché, a newly minted member of parliament for the far-right National Rally party, has no right to append “de la Pagerie” to his name—as he has done for the past three decades. The noble descendants say Taché is violating the terms of their late father’s will, which stated that the name should stay only with them.

The family is seeking nominal damages of 1 euro or a 500-euro ($527) fine for each day he continues to use the name. Taché’s lawyers argue the case is without merit and his preferred styling is no different to a pen name.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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