RD Exclusive: Stanislav Tkachenko reflects on the results of the recent G20 Summit in St. Petersburg and applies them to the upcoming G8 Summit in Sochi.


Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg. Photo: Reuters

Before discussing the possible results and outcomes of the upcoming G8 Summit in Sochi in June 2014, it’s first important to analyze the results from the recent G20 Summit in St. Petersburg. The results of Russia’s chairmanship of the G20 should be analyzed in two distinct dimensions, one related to Russia’s tactical role as the head of a global, multilateral organization, and one related to Russia’s strategic ability to become a leader in matters of global diplomacy.

The first dimension is the positive role that Russia has played in the consolidation of the position of the G20 as a key international forum for the coordination of macroeconomic policies and the establishment of institutions of the modern global economy. This is especially relevant, given that Russia’s chairmanship coincided with a period of increased economic and political turbulence.

The “St. Petersburg Declaration” of the G20, which was developed by national experts, recorded the consensus of world leaders on many important issues, such as the strengthening of cooperation in the fight against corruption, tax crimes and illegal offshore activities; the abstention from protectionism in international trade until 2016; and the adoption by the G20 of medium-term plans for the reduction of budget deficits and structural reforms (labor market and taxation regulation, human capital development, infrastructure improvements).

There were no outstanding achievements on these issues during the period of Russia’s chairmanship of the G20. The key slogan of Russia’s chairmanship was “Business as Usual,” but given the political and economic environment, which is rapidly changing under the influence of globalization, this is actually more of an achievement than it sounds.

The global economy has entered a period when it needs fine-tuning rather than fundamental reforms, taking into account both global interests (preservation of the liberal nature of world trade, the harmonization of fiscal and tax policies) and national priorities. Russia’s actions as the chair of the G20 confirm that the global economic recession is over, and in many respects, this is to the merit of the G20. Nevertheless, there are still seeds for a future crisis, so steps must be taken so as not to give crisis a chance to return.

The second dimension is Russia’s gradual and increasingly confident assertion of its place in world politics and the global economy, corresponding to its national interests and available resources. The year 2013 will go down in history of post-Soviet Russia as a year of diplomatic successes achieved by the country unlike anything in the past. At the St. Petersburg summit, Vladimir Putin spoke as a world leader concerned about the danger of collapse of the entire system of international law as a result of a possible aggression by the U.S. and its allies against sovereign Syria.

Based on its evolving relationship with the BRICS nations, Russian diplomacy was based on a single strategic imperative: to unite countries sharing similar values based on respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. An extraordinary BRICS Summit allowed Russia to obtain the support of its partners on the issue of the impossibility of a military operation against Syria. Speaking at the G20 Summit on behalf of the five fastest growing economies of the world, Russia confirmed its status of the world leader, one that basis its actions on universal values, not only on narrow national interests.

In September 2013, the Kremlin averted a major war in the Middle East, which had all the prospects of turning into a conflict of a global scale. The main success of Russian diplomacy in 2013 lies right here, and it is no accident that it took place at the G20 Summit.

Of course, the G20 is only an advisory and consultative body. The decisions adopted there are non-binding. Each country can ignore them, if its national interests so require. However, the G20 has good prospects of becoming a kind of world government, engaged in conflict-management in the event of threats of trade or currency wars, or difficulties in the harmonization of national economic policies.

Each year of the existence of G20, the regular forums of the leaders and industry ministers create a structural pressure on the activities of the legislative and executive bodies of individual states. Eventually, this pressure will inevitably result in qualitative changes in their policies, taking into account not only national interests, but also the interests of the entire international community. Thus, Russia’s chairmanship at the G20 was successful, and now Russia transfers this forum to Australia, knowing that it is in good shape.

The upcoming G8 Summit in Sochi will inevitably become a great challenge for the diplomacy of the country. We should recall that Russia’s previous chairmanship of the G8 and the summit in St. Petersburg in July 2006 was a big disappointment for the Kremlin.

The issue of “energy security” and the special role of Russia as an “energy superpower” proposed by Moscow met resistance on the part of the other partners, and eventually Russia’s main proposals were ignored. Now Russian diplomats have much more experience of working at the highest international level, therefore there is hope that the previous mistakes will be analyzed and understood.

Russia has not yet announced its priorities for the G8 in 2014. The issue of seeking answers from the leading powers of the planet “to new global threats,” proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June 2013, appears to be non-controversial and will hardly produce a reaction from the other partners. Almost certainly in 2014, Russia will try to continue the main economic issues that were established last year as part of its chairmanship of the G20.

In 2014, the most important task for Russian diplomacy, within the framework of its chairmanship of the G8, is to preserve the right to speak with the largest democracies of the world on behalf of all BRICS countries. It managed to do this at the G20 Summit, but only in relation to a quite a narrow issue, the Syrian settlement. Now the task is more difficult: to identify such a position on the key topics for discussion at the G8 that would be shared by China, India and other BRICS partners. If Russian diplomats manage to do this, the diplomatic triumph of 2013 will be overshadowed by the successes in Sochi.

The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.