A new pitch to the world

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The world convened in the diameter stretching from Cornwall to Brussels in June. Not the entire world; quite a small part of it, actually. But the back-to-back meetings of the G7 and NATO took a globalist view. 

Leaders were eager to offer the international community a common project based on the principles of free-market economics and liberal democracy, drawing a contrast with competing systems, namely China. Aware that ideals such as freedom of expression or waste reduction may be too lofty to address the immediate challenges of low-to-middle income countries, the representatives of the richest nations focused instead on development opportunities. 

The G7 summit produced a general framework that aims to reverse the coronavirus pandemic and establish systems that prevent similar ones in the future, to tackle the climate crisis and build a more equal global economy. Nevertheless, the 25-page document has been criticised for lack of firm commitments. Even the pledge to ramp up the donation of Covid-19 vaccines to lower-income countries to a billion doses by the end of the year did little to impress observers. 

Leaders in the summit took the opportunity to discuss regional matters, mainly security concerns in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and, inevitably, Turkey. Ankara’s ambitions on the world stage are a double-edged sword, particularly for the EU nation’s whose foreign policy it looks likely to impact. Only a few months ago, a confrontation between Macron and his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan had ripple effects on French domestic policy too. A NATO member, Turkey is a complicated issue for G7 governments to untangle.

In the NATO summit that followed, US President Joe Biden and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan held bilateral talks that both sides described as amicable and promising, but the details of the meeting have not been published and few analysts expect the relationship between the two leaders to bloom. 

Much of the discussions among the allies was taken up by new warcraft tactics, especially malicious cyber activities. Members singled out Russia as a threat to the world order and resolved to retaliate against cyber-attacks. The statements signalled a new vitalism at NATO as it finds new fronts for engagement and new backing from America’s commander-in-chief. 

The most notable change in direction, however, was felt in the spotlight on Beijing. Apart from a terse reference in 2019, this was the first time that China was mentioned in a NATO declaration, a testament to the emergence of the communist country. 

The prompt response from Beijing indicates that the Chinese government is not too flattered by the attention, but while Western powers can no longer throw the subject under the rug. 

For all their manufactured confidence, the meetings in the old continent betray worries that the limited range of liberal democracies may become even smaller unless they share the benefits with the rest of the world. 

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