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Trinity College in the University of Toronto

2004 G8 Pre-Summit Conference
Security, Prosperity and Freedom: Why America Needs the G8
June 3–4, 2004
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

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The G8 and Global Security Governance:
Advancing American Interests in Arms Control,
Counterterrorism and Regional Security

Dr Risto E. J. Penttilä
Director, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA
Fellow, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford<
Draft: May 28, 2004


The G8 has a long and proud tradition in arms control, counterterrorism and regional security. Whether it can advance American interests in these policy areas depends on two issues: first, whether the United States wants to use it as an instrument of foreign policy and, second, whether other member states allow the G8 to be used for this purpose.

This paper argues that for the past three years there has been a mismatch of expectations between the United States and the other G8 member states regarding the role of the G8 in arms control, counterterrorism and regional security. The United States has seen the G8 mostly as a technical instrument for the coordination of efforts between the G8 member states, while the rest of the G8 member states have sought to make the G8 a forum for policy-coordination or, at least, a forum for a meaningful policy debate. This mismatch has not been debilitating: important steps have been taken in all three areas since the September 11 terrorist attacks but it has prevented the G8 from realising its full potential as a global security actor.

The second part of the paper deals with the future. It will try and assess whether it is possible that the G8 may emerge as a more significant actor in arms control, counterterrorism and regional security than it has hitherto been. It is argued that from the point of view of global security, the G8 can be seen as a Global Concert: an instrument for the joint management of international relations by the most significant powers. In history, concerts have functioned well when their members have been of approximately equal weight. Considering the present disparity of economic and military power between the United States and second-tier G8 member states, one may be tempted to conclude that concert-based solutions cannot possibly work as long as the present disparity continues. Such a conclusion would be premature.

William Wallace has noted that a concert-based model of international governance may work if both the hegemon and the second-tier countries see mutual benefits in a concerted approach.[1] This paper will take this thesis a step further by asserting that a concert based governance-model can function in a situation that is characterised by a disparity of power between a hegemonic power and second-tier powers provided that:

1. The hegemonic power needs the added legitimacy that a concerted approach brings.

2. The second-tier powers acquire influence in exchange for providing legitimacy.

3. International organisations are incapable of making progress toward resolving problems at hand without outside leadership.

Finally, the paper puts forward the view that the G8 ought to be understood as a "meta-institution" that transcends other international organisations and can thereby provide leadership to them.

Nicholas Bayne has divided decision making in the G7/8 system in three categories: (1) the contribution of the heads themselves; (2) the contribution of the supporting apparatus; and (3) the contribution of other actors, both state and non-state. This paper focuses on the summits i.e. the contribution of the heads themselves.[2] Indeed, it is possible to argue that the supporting apparatus has begun to resemble any other international bureaucracy while the summitry alone has maintained the character of a Concert. This creeping institutionalisation of the summitry has been captured by a former sherpa: "We were originally all mavericks, but over the years the mavericks have lost the battles with the regular bureaucracy."[3]

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The US and the G8: A History of Discontinuity

Can the G8 be a vehicle for the advancement of US interests in arms control, counterterrorism and regional security? To answer this question properly one has to begin by looking at some of the key features in the history of the US-G8 relationship.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the United States’ attitude towards the G7/G8 is lack of continuity. One administration will see the G7/8 as a key part of its global strategy, while another will practically forget that it exists.

At first glance it seems that democratic administrations take the G8 more seriously than their republican counterparts. President Jimmy Carter was eager to use the G7 for the joint management of the world economy but he did not see the group merely as an instrument of economic policy. He also pushed for the inclusion of nuclear-proliferation questions into the agenda and also insisted on discussing regional security issues at summits. His democratic successor, Bill Clinton, made the G7/G8 fundamental to integrating Russia into the West. In Clinton’s view the G7/8 was important as an instrument of economic policy (it could influence IMF policy vis-à-vis Russia) but more significantly it was a way for President Clinton to manage the security aspects of the Russian transition from the removal of nuclear weapons from Ukraine to the pulling out of Russian troops from the Baltic States.[4] During President Clinton’s tenure the G8 also performed its most significant crisis management role to date by orchestrating an end to the conflict in Kosovo.

A closer look, though, reveals that the G7/8 has not been an exclusively a democratic affair. Henry Kissinger played a central role in creating the G7 — he can be considered one of the founding fathers together with Helmut Schmidt and Giscard d’Estaing. President Ford surprised everyone by inviting heads of state and government to the second G7 summit only a few months after the first G7 gathering in France. President Reagan, who initially did not think much of the group, managed (together with Margaret Thatcher) to turn the 1983 Williamsburg Summit into a significant security-policy meeting. Indeed, he became so enthused by the security policy potential of the group that he later called an extraordinary meeting to discuss nuclear arms control.

President George Bush Sr. did not award the G7 a central place in his initial foreign policy formulations. Nor did he become a convert during his tenure. For his administration the G8 was an important forum for top level discussion but it was not an instrument for the joint management of international affairs. President George W Bush has had an even cooler attitude toward the G8 than his father. In 2003 he left the Evian summit early to attend to more pressing foreign policy concerns.

John Kirton has argued that there is a long-term trend toward a more reliance on the G8 on the part of the United States.[5] If such a trend exists it has been dormant during the presidency of George W. Bush — at least thus far. Thus, the question becomes: Can the G8 become a vehicle for the advancement of US interest in arms control, counterterrorism and regional security?

The United States holds the presidency of the G8 in 2004. It is an election year and the Sea Island Summit will undoubtedly feature photo opportunities that will be used in the campaign of the incumbent — at least this was the case when President Ford hosted the 1976 Summit in Puerto Rico during his re-election campaign. Whether the Sea Island Summit will lead to a more robust role for the G8 in international peace and security will depend on three questions. First, does the United States need the added legitimacy that a "concerted leadership" can bring? Second, do other member states agree sufficiently with US policies on some of the central regional security issues, such Iraq and Israel-Palestine conflict, to intensify cooperation with the US? And thirdly, is the G8 an optimal forum for agreeing on new meaningful policy initiatives on international security?

The answer to the first question — whether the US needs the added legitimacy that a concerted approach can bring — seems to be affirmative in the lead-up to the Sea Island Summit. The difficulties that the United States has encountered in Iraq together with a sharp upturn in anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, in Europe and in many other parts of the world[6] suggest that it would be easier for the United States to advance its interests in arms control, counterterrorism and regional security if it were able to work together with other leading nations. Indeed, there has been a marked turn toward a more multilateral rhetoric in US foreign policy recently.

The answer to the second question — whether the other member states of the G8 are willing to work together with the USA — seems to be "not yet". The key issue is Iraq. In May 2004 President Bush urged his partners in the Group of Eight to set aside past differences over Iraq and back U.S.-led security and reconstruction efforts. The issue was discussed in Washington where the G8 foreign ministers met to prepare for the Sea Island Summit. President Bush’s proposal was rejected by France, Germany, Russia and Canada, each of which refused to send even a small contingent of troops to help protect United Nations personnel in Iraq, as the administration has requested.[7] The fact that President Bush spoke to the foreign ministers for only eight minutes and took no questions indicates that the amount of genuine policy debate was limited. The lack of unity on this core issue makes it unlikely that there would be a major break through at Sea Island. Indeed, some observers have noted that Europeans may be waiting for the presidential elections of November 2004 in the hope for a new beginning in transatlantic relations with Senator Kerry as the new president.[8]

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The answer to the third question — whether the G8 would be ideally suited for taking a more significant role in promoting arms control, counterterrorism and regional security in the present international situation — appears to be affirmative. The G8 has clear advantages with regard to two established institutions that traditionally play a significant role in promoting arms control, counterterrorism and regional security: the United Nations Security Council and NATO.

The United Nations Security Council has unrivalled legitimacy in issues of war and peace. Yet, it is not an ideal place for the search of common ground. In the aftermath of the failure to reach a decision in the UNSC concerning the war in Iraq, the threshold for taking new initiatives to the UN Security Council is higher than before the start of hostilities. In the past, the G8 has been helpful in helping heads of states and government overcome their differences. It could conceivably play such a role again.

It is also possible to see the G8 as a noteworthy ‘second best’ option if the UNSC route is blocked for one reason or another. For the international community the G8 is a more acceptable vehicle than unilateral action. The ending of the Kosovo conflict illustrates the point. After it proved impossible to find a solution within the UN setting, the G8 became a de facto decision-making forum. Having reached a consensus, the G8 member states consulted China. With the assurance that China would not veto a resolution, the matter was passed to the UNSC for approval.

With regard to arms control negotiations being conducted under the auspices of the UN — such as nuclear non-proliferation negotiations — the G8 can provide leadership and direction in the same way it has in many cases in the past provided GATT and WTO negotiations. This will not always be easy. The United States and other G8 states have disagreed sharply in the recent years on such issues as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Yet, there are other areas where consensus among the G8 member states will be possible to achieve.

The G8 is broader than the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) both in scope and in the geographic extent of its membership. Yet, at the same time the transatlantic relationship forms the core of the G8. The two countries that are not members — Russia and Japan — have much at stake in the future of the transatlantic relationship. The fact that the G8 deals with a variety of issues makes it better suited for the rebuilding of transatlantic relations than NATO whose focus is on security issues. In Renewing the Atlantic Partnership, an independent Task Force established by the Council on Foreign Relations, makes the point that in addition to security issues, a renewed emphasis must be based on the broader agenda. The broader agenda outlined in the publication includes many of the same issues that the G8 has dealt with for years but it also has a few points that the G8 has not touched so far. Because of the interdependence between the health of transatlantic relations and the vitality of the G8, it may be useful to list the items here.

The Task Force, co-chaired by Henry A Kissinger and Lawrence H. Summers, suggests that, first, that the US and Europe should establish new guidelines for the use of military force. Secondly, the EU and the US should develop a common policy toward irresponsible states. Thirdly, Atlantic partners should agree on the role of multilateral institutions. Fourthly, the Task Force argues that the Atlantic partners should build a common approach to the Greater Middle East. In addition to these third agenda points, the Task Force points out that "Europeans and Americans must work together, not just to liberalize US-European trade, but also to ensure the successful completion of the current round of world trade negotiations."[9]

The recommendations of the Task Force bear a very close resemblance to the agenda of the G8. Indeed, one is tempted to argue that the only existing forum that allows heads of state and government and relevant ministers to discuss these issues is the G8. Iraq, Iran and the Israeli-Palestine conflict are regional issues that have featured in the G8 agenda. And, the G8 has, of course, been the main driver for the completion of various world trade negotiations in the past. Furthermore, one is tempted to argue that all of the items listed above would benefit from the participation of Russia and Japan in the discussions. Disputes over the CTBT, the Kyoto Protocol, the ICC, and the ABM Treaty have not only strained transatlantic relations. They have had a negative impact on great power relations at large. Russia is a member of the Middle East Quartet while Japan’s reliance on imported oil makes it a natural stake-holder in the future of the Middle East.

The G8 offers the United States an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone (if such a bellicose metaphor is acceptable in the present context). The G8 can be a forum for the reconstruction of transatlantic relations and a vehicle for the advancement of US interests in counterterrorism, arms control and regional security.

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Counterterrorism — Better Late Than Never

The G7/8 has dealt with terrorism as well as asymmetric and non-military security threats since the 1970s. Yet, the G8 was not awarded a central place in the ‘war on terror’ that was instigated after the terrorist attacks on September 11 in 2001. Instead, the group was initially given a more limited role: countering the financing of terrorist operations.

The decision to confine the G8 to a technical role reflected the view of the United States that a loose coalition of like-minded countries would be sufficient to guarantee a sufficient degree of international will to mount an open-ended war on terrorism. Over the past two or three years the United States has come to recognise that the G8 can play a more significant role in the war against terror than it initially envisaged. Indeed, after encountering problems in maintaining the unity of the coalition of the willing, the US has sought to use the G8 for the purpose of both will and capacity building. One can only speculate whether the war against terror would have taken a turn for the better if it had been anchored in the multilateral framework of the G8 from the very beginning.

François Heisbourg, the incoming chairman of the IISS, was the first person to suggest that the G8 should be given a central role in the war on terror. He underlined that: ‘it offers an opportunity for a counterterrorist vote by the world body and then also a policy commitment by G8 leaders — essentially the West, Russia and Japan — to the new rules of the game that will be needed for any effective attempt to throttle modern hyperterrorism’.[10]

The Italians were quick to follow, suggesting that a special G8 summit should be called to coordinate efforts to stamp out international terrorism. The Italians may have been motivated by a desire to have a second chance after clashes between protestors and the police overshadowed the less than successful Genoa Summit in 2001. Nevertheless, it also showed a profound understanding of the group’s potential in dealing with different aspects of the problem, ranging from terrorist financing to redirecting the attention of international organisations.

The Bush administration dismissed the Italian proposal. Secretary of State Powell declared that he was so impressed with the establishment of the ad hoc anti-terrorist coalition that he did not see any reason to engage the G8 at the top level. This was very much in line with other aspects of US strategy, which sought to build a broad alliance without forfeiting any decision-making powers. It soon became clear that, while the US was not ready to award the G8 a broad political role in the war on terror, it was ready to rely on its expertise in combating the financing of terrorism. The G7/G8 was well suited for this: in addition to having paid occasional attention to the terrorist threat since 1978, it had organised annual ministerial meetings on the subject since 1995. In December 1998, for example, there was a virtual meeting of G8 justice and interior ministers that analysed the links between organised crime and terrorist funding. The G8 had also organised several meetings of counter-terrorist experts.

Terrorist financing was the main focus of the G7 finance ministers’ meeting in New York on 6 October 2001. In a closing statement, the G7 pledged to work together to restrict the financial activities of terrorists in the wake of 11 September. In the Action Plan to Combat the Financing of Terrorism, the Finance Minister stated: ‘We stand united in our commitment to vigorously track down and intercept the assets of terrorists and to pursue the individuals and countries suspected of financing terrorists … We will implement UN sanctions to block terrorist assets’. G7 finance ministers lent their support to the FATF. At an extraordinary Plenary on the Financing of Terrorism in Washington, DC, on 29–30 October 2001, the FATF expanded its mission from money laundering to curbing terrorist financing. It agreed on eight special recommendations in this regard. After the October plenary, the FATF intensified its cooperation with the UN, the Egmont Group (consisting of financial intelligence units), the G-20 finance ministers and central-bank governors and the international financial institutions. In February 2002 it held a plenary in Hong Kong that concentrated on countering the financing of terrorism. Not everyone was satisfied with the decision to restrict the G8’s role. Russia, in particular, was unhappy about US reluctance to use the group as a command centre — or at least a forum for great-power consultations — in the war on terror.[11] In public discussion, however, the G8 was hardly missed: even those who called for a more multilateral anchoring of US policies did not highlight the group’s potential in this area. This lack of attention seemed to suggest that editorial writers and columnists had already forgotten about the peace-building role that the G8 had played in Kosovo.

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Italy did not get to host an extraordinary G8 Summit on how to best combat terrorism but it managed to instigate a gradual process of making the G8 a political actor in the fight against terrorism. The G8 foreign ministers agreed under the Italian presidency that heinous terrorist attacks required a collective response and the G8 States adopted a 25-point action plan to combat terrorism. In June 2002, G8 foreign ministers, in issuing their Recommendations on Counter-Terrorism, called upon States to "ensure, in conformity with international law and, in particular, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, that refugee status is not abused by the perpetrators, organizers or facilitators of terrorist acts. When the foreign ministers reported on their progress in June 2002 very little of note had been achieved.[12]

In November 2001, Nicholas Bayne, the doyen of G8 observers, gave a talk on the G7/G8’s role in the fight against terrorism.[13] He first called attention to the G7/G8’s long history in dealing with terrorism, highlighting the fact that an expert group on terrorism had been set up in 1986. He also pointed out that the last time terrorism was dealt with at the summit level was in Lyon, France, in 1996 following a terrorist attack on US service personnel in Saudi Arabia. After the Lyon Summit, terrorism had been a regular concern for G8 foreign ministers, but it had not been discussed at the top table.

Bayne did not regret the G8’s dismissal from the political frontline in the fight against terrorism. Instead, he called attention to the importance of freezing and confiscating terrorist assets. According to Bayne, the FATF had not accomplished much in more than a decade of existence. In 2000–01, it had identified a list of ‘noncooperating jurisdictions’ that were open to money launderers and it had published recommendations that Western financial institutions should follow in dealing with these countries. Unfortunately, these suggestions were not followed. The banking community was not committed to them and doubted their potential effectiveness. Bayne stressed that many of the things that governments are now doing should have been done years ago.

The biggest contribution that the G8 can make in the fight against terrorism is to make globalisation more inclusive. To use Bayne’s words: ‘to bring more of the benefits of globalisation to poor countries’. This means that there is now ‘a greater incentive and a greater prospect of moving towards goals already established: bridging the digital divide, through the DOT Force established at Okinawa; attacking infectious diseases through the Global AIDS and Health Fund agreed at Genoa; bringing about the revival of Africa, through the Action Plan promised at Genoa and to be completed at Kananaskis’. Bayne thus presented a traditional view of the G8 as a group whose main focus is in the field of economics and whose security activities are of secondary importance.

Despite US reluctance to make the G8 the focal point of the war on terror, Washington welcomed and encouraged Canadian plans to make terrorism one of the key items on the agenda of the 2002 Kananaskis Summit. Consequently, fighting terrorism became one of the summit’s three priorities, together with strengthening global economic growth and building a new partnership for African development. Terrorism was discussed at Kananaskis but once again the agenda was overtaken by an acute international crisis. This time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and presumed US plans to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power dominated the discussions. The most important development was Russia’s full integration into G8 proceedings. Previously, as noted earlier, Russia had been excluded from the economic deliberations that had taken place within the old G7 structure. Now this ‘upstairs downstairs’ arrangement came to a clearly enunciated end at the behest of the Bush administration. No one had any doubt as to why this happened: the G8 was once again used, as it had been in the context of NATO enlargement, to reward Russia for cooperating with Washington and its Western allies.

In Evian Counterterrorism was awarded a central place in the summit agenda. The leaders took an approach that had two dimensions. First, the leaders concentrated on the need to build stronger international political will in order to improve counter-terrorism co-operation. Second, they endorsed practical steps to be taken in order to create better capacity for action. The approach was rooted in the work of the United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC).

The central features of what was launched as the G8 Action Plan to Combat Terrorism included the following elements.

First, with regard to capacity building strategy, the leaders concentrated measures that aim at (1) denying terrorists the means to commit terrorist acts (for example, to prevent the financing of terrorism, and denial of false documents and weapons); (2) denying terrorists a safe haven and ensure that terrorists are prosecuted and/or extradited; (3) overcoming vulnerability to terrorism (for example to enhance domestic security measures and capability for crisis management and consequence management).

Second, with regard to assistance the leaders noted that their countries may receive trainees, dispatch specialists, and provide equipment as requested by recipient countries.

Third, the leaders endorsed the work of the United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) and promised to ensure that agency is sufficiently staffed. They encouraged UN member states to enact the relevant UNSC resolutions. They also lent support to steps by G8 Finance Ministers to co-ordinate counter-terrorism financing measures and to work with the Financial Action Task Force and the international financial institutions (IFIs) to address terrorist financing, capacity building and other counter-terrorism objectives in their assessment and assistance initiatives.

In order to achieve these ends, the G8 leaders decided to create a Counter-Terrorism Action Group (CTAG). Membership was by invitation only: mainly donor countries would be invited to join the group. A representative of the CTC would be invited to all CTAG meetings while representatives from relevant UN bodies, IFIs and other regional and functional organisations would be invited to relevant meetings only. CTAG members would provide funding, expertise or training facilities. Each member would focus their activities on areas and countries where they have expertise.

The CTAG work is very action-oriented. It reviews requests for capacity building assistance, exchange information on the needs of assessment missions CTAG members have carried out, facilitate joint initiatives and share best practices and lessons learned. An important part of the group’s work is to encourage regional and functional organisations such as the World Customs Organisation, the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation to put pressure on their member states to implement relevant UNSC resolutions. The CTAG also urges countries that are not parties to all international counterterrorism conventions and protocols to become parties and accelerate domestic implementation of required measures.

The G8 Presidency will produce a report for the 2004 Summit on progress on counterterrorist activities by the CTAG.

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Arms Control — Toward Conflict Prevention

The G7/8 has had three distinct roles in arms control. First, it has given impetus to important arms control negotiation much the same way it has given momentum to world trade negotiations. The most famous case is the backing that the G7 leaders gave in early 1980s to the ‘two-track’ approach, linking the stationing of US Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe with progress in arms control negotiations on intermediate-range weapons with the Soviet Union. Second, it has launched new initiatives in arms control. For example, the G8 launched at Kananaskis the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.[14] More recently the group has instigated a programme to control the MANPADS anti-aircraft weapons. Thirdly, it has created "cross-over" programmes, such as the new Greater Middle East Peace initiative, that combine economic, political and arms control measures. In recent years, however, the most significant trend in G8 arms control has been a move toward conflict prevention.

Several United States presidents have — occasionally — found the G7/8 to be a useful instrument in arms control. Jimmy Carter managed to get nuclear proliferation on the agenda of the group against the protestations of other members. Ronald Reagan called an extraordinary summit before flying off to Iceland to talk about drastic nuclear arms reductions with Chairman Gorbachev. The most avid user of the G8 as an instrument of arms control was Bill Clinton. His strategy of dealing with the arms control challenges of the immediate post-Soviet era was based on using the G8 as a both as a carrot and a stick.

What is the analysis today? Is the G8 a useful instrument in the advancement of US interests in arms control? The answer is "yes and no". The G8 is a useful element in some cases whereas it is of no use or a hindrance in others. Whether an issue belongs in the former or the latter category is explained by the three conditions outlined in the beginning of the paper. In other words, G8 can be a vehicle for the advancement of US interests in arms control provided that (1) the United States needs greater legitimacy that concerted leadership brings, (2) other member states feel that they gain influence by cooperating (3) no international organization is in a position to act successfully.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty are examples of issues where the G8 has not been a vehicle for the advancement of American interests in arms control. Indeed, both issues have produced high friction between the member states. However, it should be noted that the friction has not been manifested at G8 Summits. On these issues the G8 member states have followed the old rule of not appearing to disagree in public. At Geneo Summit the then hot topic of missile defence was not discussed as part of the official agenda. Neither was it part of the official agenda of the Foreign Ministers Meeting in Rome. It was, therefore, quite unexpected that this issue stole the limelight on the last day of the summit. President Bush and President Putin agreed to start new talks based on linking US plans for a missile-defence shield with reductions in nuclear stockpiles. Heads of other G8 member states declined to make substantive comment on these bilateral talks. The incident showed that as far as the ABM Treaty was concerned the US administration did not see any need for the added legitimacy that a concerted approach would have brought (=first condition for the concert model to work). A bilateral agreement on this issue was enough. Since the US did not want to discuss the issue with other member states, there was no possibility for the second tier powers to gain influence over the matter. Thus, the second condition of the functioning of the concert model did not become an issue. Since the US was intent on circumventing — or indeed declaring obsolete — an existing arms control regime, the question of whether the issue should be taken to another multilateral forum did not arise.

The Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction is an example of an issue where the G8 has been a vehicle for the advancement of American interests in arms control. The partnership was launched at the Kananaskis Summit. The disintegration of the Soviet Union had resulted in a large surplus of weapons and materials of mass destruction. Tens of thousands of Russian nuclear warheads and hundreds of tonnes of nuclear weapons-usable materials were dispersed at inadequately secured sites. Furthermore, Russia inherited more than 40,000 tonnes of chemical weapons as we as the Soviet Union’s sizeable biological weapons programme.

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At Kananaskis the leaders committed 20 billion USD over the next ten years to support efforts, initially in Russia, to address non-proliferation, disarmament, counterterrorism, and nuclear safety issues. The aim was to "prevent terrorists, or those that harbour them, from acquiring or developing nuclear, chemical, radiological and biological weapons; missiles; and related materials, equipment and technology".

For the purposes of this paper, the Partnership is important for two reasons. First, it is an indication of the development of the United States’ attitude toward the G8: a group that was first seen as having only limited value (albeit in a vitally important area of curbing the finances of terrorism) was recognized as being an important tool in the fight against terrorism. Secondly, the Partnership fulfils the three criteria for the functioning of the concert model of governance. First, the United States recognized a need for the legitimacy that a concerted leadership can bring: it would not have been acceptable to Russia that the United States alone would have leant it a helping hand in dismantling its WMD stockpiles. A concerted approach was required. Second, other G8 member states were eager to include arms control issues on the G8 agenda. The most active two countries in this regard had been Canada and Russia. In December 2001, Prime Minister Kasayanov held talks with Canadian Prime Minister Chretien. The two men put emphasis on the ‘expansion of cooperation of the Group of Eight and other international organizations in such key questions as the promotion of strategic stability, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear, chemical and bacteriological disarmament’. Finally, no other international organisation could have mobilised in such a short time a project whose funding requirements were colossal. It should be noted that the Partnership has been opened to non-G8 countries. So far Finland, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Switzerland and Poland have joined.

Will the US be able to advance its interests in arms control via the G8 in the future? As far as arms control per se is concerned the answer is that it depends on the situation. As far as conflict prevention is concerned there are both major obstacles and major opportunities.

Conflict prevention is an abstract concept with no universally definition. Nor is its relationship with arms control absolutely clear. The Carnegie Commission on the Prevention of Deadly Conflict sought to clarify the concept by dividing it into operational (or short term) and structural (or long term) conflict prevention. The G8 has been engaged in both. A good example of structural conflict prevention is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The first of NEPAD’s five major issue areas was peace and security.[15] An example of operational conflict prevention would be the pressure that the G8 leaders put on Moscow to withdraw Russian troops from the Baltic States. Their orderly withdrawal was an important element in achieving a peaceful transition to the independence of the Baltic States. The G8 is well-placed to make a difference with regard to both short and long-term conflict prevention provided that the members agree. The US Greater Middle East Initiative is an attempt to use the G8 as a vehicle for structural, long term conflict prevention. It is still unclear what will be the commitment of the G8 member states to this initiative. However, Egypt, has already voiced its mistrust of the initiative and declined the invitation to join the G8 members at Sea Island.

The term preventive action is normally used to refer to political action but in some cases it has been extended to preventive military action. If we use the term liberally and include preventive military action within the definition, the situation changes dramatically: conflict prevention becomes a highly sensitive, flammable issue. Several experts, among them Charles Grant and the aforementioned Task Force on Atlantic relations, have encouraged EU and the USA to discuss the principle of pre-emptive warfare. Since all members of the G8 (as well as the wider world community) have a stake in the matter, the G8 ought to take up the issue. The clarification of the principles of the use of military force would make a contribution both to arms control and to conflict prevention.

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Regional Security — Greater Middle East and China

[The Greater Middle East Initiative together with President Bush’s proposal that the G8 partners coordinate efforts to improve worldwide peacekeeping operations are potentially a significant part of the G8 approach to regional security. They will be discussed at the Sea Island Summit. Consequently, this part will be written after the Sea Island Summit. One of the arguments in this section is that the G8 cannot be a credible actor in regional security in Asia without the membership of China.]

The G8 as Global Security Actor

Concert-based models have traditionally emerged — or gained in importance — after major wars. The Concert of Europe emerged after the Napoleonic Wars. There was a short-lived concert after both the First and the Second World War. The end of the Cold War made it possible for the G8 to emerge as a global concert.[16] The crisis over the war in Iraq incapacitated the G8 as a security concert. The question is whether the current war in Iraq will qualify as a "major war" that leads to a concert-based approach. The answer seems to be that while the occupation of Iraq does not qualify as major war in a military sense — after all we are talking about a limited war in both military and geographic sense — its political and diplomatic consequences may be so far-reaching that it qualifies as a major war: a war that impacts the future of international relations. As such it may usher in a new era of concert-based approaches to the questions of arms control, counterterrorism and regional conflicts.

What kind of an actor should the G8 aim to be in international peace and security? Most experts agree that the G8 is not and should not become a "conflict manager" or "conflict preventer" in itself. It can contribute best by acting as a leader for other organisations in setting the agenda for the broader international community. That is why the French, as Robert Fowler points out, have long held that the summit vehicle is "not a directoire politique, but rather a very effective instance d’impulsion, something more than an agent of influence whereby its agreement on vital issues of the moment have an enormous impact on world management."[17] In another context I have defined the G8 as a meta institution: a group that transcends international organisations and has a potentially decisive influence on what international organisations do, how they do it and how much resources they have available.

But is it this enough? Should the G8 aim to have a more robust role? Should it transform itself to a new entity, a Global Alliance for Security, as three distinguished strategic thinkers, Graham Allison, Karl Kaiser, and Sergei Karaganov have suggested? According to their proposal the Global Alliance for Security should start with the G8 membership and its modes of operation, but it should make a special effort to include China. In due course, other responsible countries should be included provided that they share the same objectives and are prepared to contribute significantly to their achievement. The mission should be ‘to prevent and fight terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the infrastructure of international criminal activities and drug traffic that feeds terrorist networks. It should also address the causes of terrorism in failed or failing political regimes and societies’.

The proposal of the Trio has distinct merits: at a time when the reform of the UN Security Council continues to be a distant dream, it is useful to think of other approaches. It is also correct to point out that such an Alliance would not be credible without the participation of or membership of China. However, the proposal has one weakness. Turning an informal Concert into a formal Alliance would remove the positive aspects of an informal Concert without necessarily adding value in any meaningful way.

Writing about concerts and condominiums, Hedley Bull noted: ‘The great powers cannot formalise and make explicit the full extent of their special position. International society is based on the rejection of a hierarchical ordering of states in favour of equality in the sense of the like application of basic rights and duties of sovereignty to like entities’.[18] So far, G8 leaders have declined calls for a secretariat to be established. They have also refused to adapt a charter and set clear rules. They ought to reject such demands in future as well. Indeed, the challenge for the G8 is not how to have more meetings and a more developed structure, but how to concentrate on key issues on the global-security agenda.

The G8 will not be able to play a successful role in international peace and security without increasing its legitimacy in the eyes of non-members. One way of achieving greater legitimacy might be occasionally to use the G20 as a forum for security-policy discussion. The US decision to invite six countries to the Sea Island Summit is a step in this direction regardless of the fact that not everyone accepted the invitation.

Another, longer term, approach is to engage China in the G8’s work. China is the strongest candidate for G8 membership. Its economic, political and military weight surpasses that of all other non-members. Yet it is not a democratic country and its policies and values do not necessarily coincide with those of existing members. From the point of view of creating a genuine Global Concert, Chinese membership would bring clear advantages.

The G8’s future security role will depend on the willingness of its members, particularly the US, to use the group as an instrument of policy coordination and crisis management. The core question remains: Why would the US want to engage the G8 in the joint management of international security?

There are two overriding reasons. First, the US would increase the legitimacy of its actions by consulting other great powers. Second, it would be able to strengthen cohesion between the West and Russia in relation to matters of global security, such as the war on terror. The risks involved would be limited. The G8 does not have a habit of publicly criticising or contradicting its members. Thus, even if the other member states did not agree with US policies, they would be unlikely to use the G8 as a forum for concerted criticism. For the US that is torn between a desire for greater international legitimacy and a fear of the constraints associated with international institutions, the G8 offers a neat compromise that could be called "Multilateralism Light". If hegemony is ‘imperialism with good manners’, as Georg Schwartzenberger has argued, the G8 would be an ideal place for the US to show its command of proper etiquette.

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[1] William Wallace discusses the relationship between a hegemon and a concert in Cesare Merlini (ed.), Economic Summits and Western Decision-Making, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1984. In a more recent article he notes that “America cannot expect its allies to share the burdens of global leadership without allowing them their say in the issues at stake.” William Wallace, Europe, the Necessary Partner, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2001.

[2] Nicholas Bayne, Concentrating the mind: Decision Making in the G7/8 System in John J. Kirton and Radoslava N. Stefanova, The G8, the United Nations, and Conflict Prevention, Ashgate 2004, p. 21.

[3] Robert D. Putnam and Nicholas Bayne, Hanging Together: Cooperation and Conflict in the Seven Power Summits, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998, p.55

[4] Strobe Talbot, The Russian Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy, New York, Random House, 2002.

[5] John Kirton, United States foreign policy and the G8 summit, lecture at the Faculty of Law, Chuo University, Japan, 6 July 2000.

[6] See "A Year after Iraq: Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher, Muslim Anger Persists," Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, March 16, 2004.

[7] G8 members snub U.S. appeal for Iraq troops, Bob Deans, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 14 2004.

[8] “Europe's gamble: Waiting for Kerry,” by Thomas Oliphant, International Herald Tribune. May 20, 2004.

[9] Renewing the Atlantic Partnership, Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, Henry A. Kissinger and Lawrence H. Summers, Co-Chairs, Charles A. Kupchan, Project Director.

[10] François Heisbourg in an interview in the International Herald Tribune, 14 September 2001.

[11] Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov, who was also Russia’s political director in the G8, met with Giancarlo Aragona, Italy’s Ambassador to Moscow, on 27 September to discuss, among other things, problems of stepping up G8 activity in the fight against terrorism. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Daily News Bulletin, 27 September 2002.

[12] G8 Foreign Ministers’ Progress Report on the Fight against Terrorism, Whistler, June 2002. Kirton and Stefanova p. 257.

[13] Nicholas Bayne, The G8’s Role in the Fight Against Terrorism.

[14] This is a programme through which G8 member states and the European Commission have committed 20 billion dollars over ten years to the address non-proliferation, disarmament, counterterrorism and nuclear safety issues in Russia.

[15] Robert Fowler, The Intricacies of Summit Preparation and Consensus Building, in Kirton and Stefanova.

[16] See Risto E. J. Penttilä, The Role of the G8 in International Peace and Security, Oxford University Press, Oxford 20

[17] Robert Fowler, The Intricacies of Summit Preparation and Consensus Building in Kirton and Stefanova

[18] Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society, A Study of Order in World Politics, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

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