New boys, lame ducks add spice to G8 summit

Published by People’s daily online, on June 6, 2007.

New boys, lame ducks and a problem child head to Germany yesterday for a Group of Eight (G8) summit that will address the world’s most pressing concerns.

The annual major power jamboree is meant to focus on policies, but personalities might steal the limelight this year thanks to significant changes to the longstanding cast list and growing tensions between some of the leading players.

Newly-elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy makes his debut on the G8 stage, while British Prime Minister Tony Blair heads towards the exit after a decade in office, his legacy jeopardised by the never-ending chaos in Iraq.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also promised to stand aside before next year’s summit, and can expect a cold reception after a year of virulent clashes with his Western counterparts that have raised fears of a second Cold War.

Putin will arrive at the summit today after issuing a Cold War-style warning that Russia will revert to targeting missiles on Europe if the United States goes ahead with building a missile shield near its borders.

US President George W. Bush, weakened at home and abroad by the Iraq conflict, also risks a chilly welcome because of his refusal to back Germany’s initiative on global warming, and some of his peers are clearly already looking to the post-Bush era.

“There is a change of guard underway in world politics and we’ll see it clearly in Germany,” said Francois Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The most obvious sign of that will be the arrival of Sarkozy, whose emergence after 12 years of rule by his ageing predecessor Jacques Chirac promises to bring fresh zip and zeal to French diplomacy after a long period of introspection. (full text).

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