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article imageAbsent Putin still looms large over Brussels G7 summit

By Robert Myles     Jun 4, 2014 in Politics
Brussels - Leaders of the G7 group of industrialized nations meeting at a summit in Brussels, Belgium, Wednesday, are expected to put further pressure on Russia to act over the Ukrainian crisis.
In eastern Ukraine, close to the border with Russia, fierce fighting between pro-Russia armed militias and Ukrainian government forces threatens to become a daily event.
Just a few short months ago, the today’s summit meeting would have been the ideal forum for a tête-à-tête with Russian President Vladimir Putin. What would have been a G8 summit was originally scheduled to take place in Sochi, the venue for the most recent Winter Olympics, but Russia was cast out of the G8 group of nations in response to Russia’s perceived involvement in events in Ukraine. After absorbing Crimea into the Russian Federation following a hastily arranged referendum in the Black Sea peninsula and that despite Russia being a signatory to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing Ukrainian sovereignty, Russia was cold-shouldered by other G8 members, hence, now we are G7.
Also high on the G7 agenda will be the terrorist threat arising as a consequence of the continuing conflict in Syria. The dangers arising from well-trained, ex-combatants in the Syrian uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was underscored recently when the US State Department confirmed an American national had died taking part in a series of suicide bomb attacks in Syria’s Idlib province, southwest of the city of Aleppo.
The American bomber, whom the New York Times identified as Moner Mohammad Abusalha, originally from Florida, was one of an estimated 11,000 foreign nationals fighting in Syria.
At the Brussels G7 summit, UK Premier David Cameron [Unlink] is expected to urge tougher border controls to counter the possibility of events in Syria posing consequential risks to G7 countries, reports PA.
While eschewing further sanctions against Russia, at least for now, G7 leaders are expected to lend backing to newly elected Ukrainian President, "Chocolate King," Petro Poroshenko, calling on President Putin to engage with the Ukrainian president as a measured step in de-escalating tensions, particularly in eastern Ukraine, which have already resulted in a number of fatalities both among Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russia armed militias.
Although the Ukrainian Presidential election was far from perfect — the franchise didn’t extend to some parts of eastern Ukraine where pro-Russia supporters prevented the opening of many polling stations — Poroshenko, unlike Ukraine’s interim president Olexandr Turchynov, appointed after the ouster of former President Yanukovych, can at least point to enjoying overwhelming support in the May 25 contest where Poroshenko emerged as victor in the first round of polling.
Endorsing Poroshenko’s democratic legitimacy, U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet the new Ukrainian president earlier today in Warsaw, Poland, before heading to the G7 summit in Brussels.
Tuesday, President Obama emphasized continued US support for European security, particularly in the east of the continent. At a meeting with central and eastern European leaders in the Polish capital, Obama said, “Our commitment to Poland's security as well as the security of our allies in central and Eastern Europe is a cornerstone of our own security and it is sacrosanct."
The president’s remarks came as Obama pledged a new "European Reassurance Initiative" costed at up to $1 billion (730 million euros). The new initiative aims to finance extra US troop and military deployments to bolster allies in Eastern Europe. Seen against the overall US defence budget, the sums involved are paltry but the move will undoubtedly go some way to reassuring eastern European allies that the US shares their concerns over a re-emergent Russia, perceived by some east Europeans as more belligerent, while, at the same time, sending a signal to Moscow that NATO is ready to respond.
Later this week, Western leaders will come face to face with President Putin for the first time since the Ukrainian crisis began. Putin is attending the 70th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings that takes place Friday, June 6, in Normandy in northern France. French President François Hollande will be joined, not only by Putin, but also by President Obama, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, UK Premier David Cameron among many others.
World leaders will have a little time for quiet contemplation at the D-Day commemoration, remembering the last years of a war when Russian and American, Canadian, Pole and Brit, and so many more, faced down a common evil.
Is it too much to hope our present leaders use their “quiet time” in Normandy to reflect that there’s so much more that binds our nations in common humanity than sets them apart?
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