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Analytical Studies

The Russian 2006 G8 Hosting Decision

John Kirton
Calgary, Alberta
June 27, 2002

The first achievement of historic significance produced by the Kananaskis Summit concerned the further development of the G7/8 as an institution - the decision to have Russia host of the 2006 Summit and thus complete the process of it becoming a full member of the G8 club. On the afternoon of the Summit's first day, the G8 leaders issued a statement declaring that "Russia will assume the Presidency and host our annual Summit" as a consequence of its "remarkable economic and democratic transformation" in recent years. The statement specified a G8 summit cycle that would "begin again in 2003 in France" followed by the United States (2004), the United Kingdom (2005), Russia (2006), Germany (2007), Japan (2008), Italy (2009) and Canada (2010).

The decision reflected the outcome of a longstanding debate in which Germany, backed by France, supported Russia's early insertion, with Japan, Britain and the United States urging delay. In the end, it seemed that Germany relinquished its place in the hosting order to bring in Russia. But the 2006 date also gave Russia four more years to gain admission to the WTO, thus allowing trade topics to be discussed "at eight" rather than "at seven." By then, it was assumed Russia would have advanced economically to the point where there was no longer a need for leaders to meet at seven "just before their annual G-8 Summit." Russia as host was expected not to make provision for one. If necessary, G7 leaders could still meet informally on an ad hock basis. The G7 finance ministers' institution would continue as is.

Several other aspects of the G8 statement are worth noting. For the first time, the G7/8 specified it would meet, not just for one more year but for a further eight. By identifying the host for each of those years, it implied that there would be no full-member additions to the club, and no dropouts or removals from it. It also suggested the EU would not be graduated and inserted into the hosting rotation.

France's refusal to relinquish its hosting position for 2003 indicates how important it considers the G8 to be in its overall international institutional mix. America's refusal for 2004 may indicate an American calculation that hosting a few months before Bush's November 2004 election would give him a domestic political boost. Japan's acquiescence pointed to the prospect that President Vladimir Putin had signalled he would start to move on the issue of the Northern Territories. German leadership and French support on the Russian hosting issue is seen in the fact that Germany chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced at a German briefing that there would be a joint G8-EU summit in St. Petersburg on May 30, 2003. Even if the EU's candidate members were not to attend, this confirmed the G8's trend toward inclusive "outreach" and institutional innovation, and its preference for only including democratic polities in the summits it held.

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