There is quite a cloud hanging over this year’s G8 summit, which opens today on Germany’s Baltic coast. President Bush arrived to be greeted by protestors at the heliport before he was whisked away to the summit site, but it is potentially difficult talks with Russia, not popular protests, that will be uppermost in his mind.
A 12-kilometre metal barrier and 16 000 police should ensure the summit is not disturbed from outside, but within, the row over America’s project to build a missile defence system in Europe against Russia’s wishes is derailing a summit that already had a busy agenda of vital global issues.
The summit is French president, Nicolas Sarkozy’s first, and British prime minister, Tony Blair’s last. Apart from trying to tone down the war of words between the United States and Russia the leaders have to talk about climate change, aid to the developing world, Middle East peace, Sudan, Iran’s nuclear programme, and the future of Kosovo.
However, on most of these issues seven out of the eight nations, the US, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Canada and Japan may find themselves at odds with the Russians, too. There are signs the Americans are starting to get serious about climate change, but it is far from sure that concrete measures limiting carbon dioxide emissions will be agreed on.