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G8 Members No Longer Have Common Goals, Expert Says

(Washington, D.C. - July 31, 2006) The recent summit of the Group of Eight (G8) leaders that was held in St. Petersburg, Russia exposed the failure of the institution to fulfill its primary functions of "uniting people with similar geo-political perceptions, values, and histories" and serving as a "board of governors for the world economy," according to a prominent Russian political analyst. Andrei Piontkovsky, who spoke to a recent audience at RFE/RL's Washington, DC office, is currently a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Piontkovsky said that the "lack of adequate response" by the forum in meeting the "strategic needs" of the West should encourage the original members to "concentrate decisions on strategic issues in some other company." Piontkovsky noted that the G7 was created in the 1970's, following the oil crisis in the Middle East and a global recession, to provide a platform where the "senior leaders of the West" could "discuss, in a business-like atmosphere, the policies and strategies" affecting their region. "The signing of irrelevant documents" at this G8 summit, said Piontkovsky, along with the removal from the summit's agenda of the issues of Iranian nuclear ambitions and concerns over "democratic standards" in Russia, "underlined the failure of the institution."

Although Russia entered the G8 in the early 1990's and "was accepted as a strategic ally who wanted unification with the West," Piontkovsky said that "Moscow has [more recently] publicly taken a non-Western approach and announced its removal from the West." He pointed to statements and articles by Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov, who "very openly, very assertively, stated, 'we are not part of the West... we do not belong with the west... we are a special civilization with a special path,'" as well as Vladimir Putin's recent statement that "we cannot take sides in the conflict of civilizations unleashed by violations of international law." Piontkovsky asserted that Moscow's intention to follow a "special path," outside of the West, was "demonstrated clearly during the two day conference." According to Piontkovsky, "Putin is playing on the other side" in the dispute over Iran's nuclear enrichment program and "war against radical Islam," and that these "cardinal disagreements with Western capitals" were inhibiting the G8's search for solutions to these challenges.

Piontkovsky also suggested that the economic goals of the G8 could be better met by "expand[ing] to 12" the number of members of the institution. He noted that "this board of governors [for the world economy] is unthinkable without India and China," which now play a fundamental and increasingly important role in the global economy.

Commenting on concerns surrounding Russia's "democratic standard" and the introduction of an NGO law which critics fear will lead to a crackdown on civil society, Piontkovsky stated, "we do not have an open totalitarian regime" in Russia; instead, according to Piontkovsky, Russia has a "soft totalitarian regime." He cited his own decision to close the Strategic Studies Center, which he founded in Moscow, "...not because I was threatened, but because the new law demands a lot of bureaucratic paperwork."