Face to face multi-lateral diplomacy is back. The band is getting back together, but the world has changed since the G7 last met.
Our species and our planet face grave threats and the West’s autocratic rivals have prospered and grown more powerful.
There is a huge amount at stake for those who want the world led by open, democratic, free societies.
Coronavirus is the biggest challenge for the G7‘s first face-to-face summit since the pandemic broke out. Until the entire world is vaccinated, we all remain at risk of a new variant sending us back to square one.
Former British ambassador to the US who knows Joe Biden well, Sir Peter Westmacott, told Sky News the president and his allies know this is their number one priority.
“This virus is going to contaminate international business, travel, holiday making, unless we can eradicate it or pretty much eradicate it. It’s not good enough for one or two countries to do really well. So we have to work together on this, just like we have to work together if we’re going to save the planet,” he said.
And if the West fails to lead in vaccinating the world, its claim to global moral leadership could be fatally undermined.
On the eve of the summit, America’s new president wrote that the US is “back in the chair on the issue of climate change” and “we have an opportunity to deliver ambitious progress that curbs the climate crisis”.
The G7 needs to resuscitate a global economy weakened by the pandemic.
But even before the virus, millions were so disenchanted with the way things are run economically that they voted for populists like Donald Trump.
The G7 must convince them that the economic integration, globalisation and multilateral institutions that the West has worked so hard to build up are worth their mettle. Otherwise the populists will be back, maybe even Trump himself.
Sir Kim Darroch was British ambassador to the US.
He told Sky News that allies will remain nervous about that for some time to come, saying: “More people voted for Donald Trump [in 2020] than they did in 2016. So there is a way to go for them to be convinced that the American cause has been reset in a stable and consistent way for the foreseeable future.”
China is a thorny issue the G7 knows it must handle carefully.
If the G7 is serious about what it calls values-based diplomacy, it cannot turn a blind eye to any of these. But it can’t afford to alienate China either. It will be a tricky balancing act.
Former NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Sky News the G7 needs to be robust when it comes to the way China is behaving.
“An attack is not necessarily by tanks or aeroplanes,” he said. “On the contrary, you can use economic coercion as part of your aggressiveness. And that’s exactly what China is exercising.”
Mr Rasmussen suggests the free world applies an “all for one, one for all” approach to China’s economic bullying. That way Beijing might think twice about using its size and power to coerce smaller nations economically.
For some there’s nothing less at stake at this summit than who is going to run the world in the years ahead. Democracies or autocracies?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned the main challenge in the coming years will be the fight between autocracy and democracy, autocracy primarily represented by China and Russia, and to counter the advancing autocracies there’s the need to rally around basic democratic principles.
If that sounds a bit abstract, don’t underestimate how much that contest could effect us all. “It’s an existential question, it’s a question about who will set the global norms and standards in the future,” he argues.
Giving one example, Mr Rasmussen said: “You can use artificial intelligence to make our lives better and easier, but you can also use artificial intelligence to strengthen surveillance of your people, controlling your people. And if it’s Beijing who sets the international norms and standards for the use of artificial intelligence, semiconductors and data flows, etc, then we would undermine privacy and individual liberty. And that is what is at stake.”
Fortunately for the West, if it can get the individual challenges right, it has a better chance of winning the bigger battle, seeing off the threat from autocracies.
An alliance of democracies that can lead on COVID, lead on climate change and lead a global economic recovery will be a more appealing alternative to autocratic regimes in Moscow and Beijing – and more likely to reclaim its preeminent position. Failure will only strengthen Russia and China.
Hope for global action
What happens in Cornwall will have an impact on all our lives.
The good news is this G7 is better placed than many before to achieve unity and success. Recent summits have been marred by Donald Trump’s impatience with the whole idea of western multilateral democracy.
Before that, the inclusion of Russia as part of the G8 group led inevitably to watered down compromise resolutions.
This G7 includes a reenergised America deeply committed to its principles, and the state of the world gives an urgency and potential for focus we have not seen in a long time.
Former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger has died aged 100
Former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger has died aged 100.
He passed away at his home in Connecticut on Wednesday, according to a statement from Kissinger Associates Inc.
The veteran politician had major influence on American foreign policy under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Born in Germany in 1923, Mr Kissinger fled the Nazi regime with his family as a teenager and settled in the US in 1938.
During eight years as a national security adviser and secretary of state, Dr Kissinger was involved in major foreign policy events including the first example of “shuttle diplomacy” seeking peace in the Middle East, secret negotiations with China to defrost relations between the burgeoning superpowers and the instigation of the Paris peace talks seeking an end to the Vietnam conflict.
In 1973 he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War.
However, Dr Kissinger, along with President Nixon, also bore the brunt of criticism from the US’s allies following the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces in 1975 as the remaining US personnel fled what is now known as Ho Chi Minh City.
His influence over US diplomacy – which continued long after he left office – has not been without controversy, and some activists called for him to be prosecuted for war crimes.
He remained active in politics, even after his 100th birthday in May, attending meetings in the White House, publishing a book on leadership styles, and testifying before a Senate committee about the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
In July 2023 he made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During his early life, after becoming a naturalised US citizen in 1943, Dr Kissinger joined the US Army the same year and was awarded a Bronze Star.
He would go on to serve with US counter intelligence in occupied Germany.
Dr Kissinger earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees at Harvard University, where he taught international relations for almost 20 years before President Nixon appointed him national security advisor in 1969.
He is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger, two children by his first marriage, David and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren.
According to the statement from Kissinger Associates: “He will be interred at a private family service. At a later date, there will be a memorial service in New York City.”
Senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid tribute to Dr Kissinger on X describing him as a “great one” and saying: “Fortunate indeed is America for his lifetime of diplomacy, wisdom, and love of freedom.”
Winston Lord, former US ambassador to China and Dr Kissinger’s one time special assistant said: “The world has lost a tireless advocate for peace.
“America has lost a towering champion for the national interest. I have lost a cherished friend and mentor.
“Henry blended the European sense of tragedy and the American immigrant’s sense of hope.”
Cindy McCain, the wife of late Senator John McCain said: “Henry Kissinger was ever present in my late husband’s life.
“While John was a POW and in the later years as a Senator & statesman.
“The McCain family will miss his wit, charm, and intelligence terribly.”
US military aircraft with six people on board crashes off Japanese island
At least one person has died after a US military aircraft crashed off the coast of a Japanese island.
Six crew members were on board the Osprey aircraft when it crashed on Wednesday.
The Japanese coastguard said one crew member had been found – and was later pronounced dead – along with grey-coloured debris believed to be from the aircraft.
They were found at sea around half a mile off the eastern coast of Yakushima.
The cause of the crash and the status of the other people on the aircraft were not immediately known.
Fishing boats in the area found three people in the surrounding waters, a representative of a local fisheries cooperative said. Their condition is unknown.
Another Osprey landed safely at the island’s airport on Wednesday, at around the time of the crash.
“The government will confirm information about the damage and place the highest priority on saving lives,” Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
The Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, but during flight can rotate its propellers forward and cruise much faster like an aeroplane.
US and Japanese officials said the aircraft belonged to Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo.
In Okinawa, where about half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are based, Governor Denny Tamaki told reporters he will ask the US military to suspend all Osprey flights in Japan.
In August, a US Osprey crashed off the coast of northern Australia, killing three Marines and seriously injuring five others.
Another crash-landed in the ocean off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa in December 2016, prompting a temporary US military grounding of the aircraft.
It also comes after five US service members were killed after their aircraft suffered a “mishap” during a routine air refuelling mission in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Elon Musk accused of promoting ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory
Elon Musk has been accused of promoting a long-debunked conspiracy theory which alleged high-profile Democrats ran a paedophile abuse ring from a Washington pizza restaurant.
The billionaire posted and later deleted a meme referencing “Pizzagate” on X on Tuesday, NBC News reports.
It was an image from TV show The Office, with fake dialogue superimposed on to the scene to make it look like the characters were arguing about whether the conspiracy was real.
“Does seem at least a little suspicious,” Musk wrote.
His post was seen by NBC News – Sky’s US partner network – before it was taken down.
NBC News reports Musk has replied to X posts about Pizzagate at least four times since 20 November.
They feature unfounded insinuations that journalists were involved.
No evidence has ever been uncovered that a child trafficking ring was being run from the pizzeria, or that Democrat politicians were involved and journalists covered it up.
Musk is a regular critic of the media and purveyor of conspiracies, including that aliens built the pyramids.
Last year, shortly after buying the platform formerly known as Twitter, he posted a link to an article featuring an unfounded rumour about an attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
More recently, he has been accused of endorsing an antisemitic conspiracy theory. It led to major advertisers pulling promotions from X and criticism from Israeli politicians.
The SpaceX owner has since visited the country to be shown the scene of Hamas’s attack on 7 October.
Sky News has contacted X for comment.
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