Three consecutive summits over the next week will test Western resolve to back Ukraine and the extent of international unity as rising geopolitical tensions and economic difficulties cast an ever-longer shadow.
On Thursday and Friday, European Union leaders will meet in Brussels to consider officially making Ukraine a candidate for membership. From Sunday to Tuesday, the major economic powers of the Group of Seven will hold their annual summit in Germany. And right after that, NATO leaders will meet in Madrid, with a stalemate over Finland and Sweden’s membership hopes looming on the horizon.
The 27 EU countries seem on track to give Ukraine a much-needed morale boost in the face of the Russian invasion. However, the prospects of NATO countries quickly breaking down Turkey’s opposition to Nordic membership looks uncertain at best.
Between the two, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hopes for a united front on long-term support for Ukraine, the fight against climate change and world hunger at a time of runaway inflation and rising energy insecurity as it hosts G-7 leaders – the US, Germany, France, Italy, UK, Canada and Japan, plus the EU – all the way to the Bavarian Alps .
“Now is the time when (those) everywhere who stand for democracy and freedom, human rights and liberal society must unite,” Scholz said ahead of the summits.
“Freedom has its price, democracy has its price, solidarity with friends and partners has its price, and we are ready to pay that price,” he said, acknowledging that the sanctions against Russia are causing also pain in us. Support for Ukraine will continue “as long as Ukraine needs our support”, he said.
Making Ukraine a candidate for EU membership now seems assured after some members’ initial doubts about such rapid development. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, recommended the step last week, shortly after the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania visited Kyiv and backed his candidacy.
According to several EU diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity of the closed-door discussions ahead of the summit, Ukraine will receive the required unanimous approval.
“We will give a very clear direction,” said a diplomat. “It will be a bit like an engagement before marriage.”
It’s likely to be a long commitment – years, if not decades. Among other things, Ukraine will have to implement reforms concerning the rule of law and the fight against corruption.
Ukraine is also set to dominate the G-7 summit in an idyllic and tried-and-tested alpine location. US President Joe Biden and other leaders will meet at the secluded luxury Schloss Elmau hotel where Germany hosted its last G-7 summit in 2015.
G-7 finance ministers agreed last month to provide $19.8 billion in economic aid to Ukraine to help keep basic services running and prevent tight finances from hampering its defense against Russian forces.
In Elmau, Scholz wants to consider the longer-term prospects and an overall strategy for its reconstruction, including what a “Marshall Plan for Ukraine” might look like. The leaders will also take stock of the effectiveness of their sanctions against Russia.
G-7 leaders are also expected to discuss how to revive Ukraine’s food exports and the broader issue of global food security.
To broaden the scope of the summit, Germany has invited leaders from Senegal, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Argentina – a choice meant to reflect their regional influence and the importance of a “resilient democracy”. German officials seem to hope to gradually bring these countries closer to Western views on sanctions against Russia.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is expected to join the G-7 leaders and NATO meeting from Tuesday to Thursday via video link. It was not immediately clear on the eve of the EU summit whether Zelenskyy would also be there.
Senior US administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to preview the summits, said Ukraine would be at the forefront of conversations next week and that the United States and its allies would disclose new proposals to increase pressure on Russia while minimizing the fallout on allies, and to strengthen support for Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has touted the 30-nation military alliance summit as a “historic” opportunity to strengthen it in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Larger troop commitments on the eastern flank of Russia’s border bloc and its ally Belarus are expected. The alliance’s 10-year strategic concept is expected to place new emphasis on verifying China’s military ambitions, which US officials say are spreading beyond Asia and into Africa.
But the summit also promises to shine a light on differences. Turkey is blocking the rapid admission of Sweden and Finland, urging the two to change their stance on Kurdish rebels whom Turkey considers terrorists.
Sweden and Finland are invited to Madrid, but it is uncertain whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will move anytime soon. A senior German official, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with department rules, said Berlin was confident a solution could be found but “given the historical dimension, it is not a disaster if we we need a few more weeks.”
Returning from a trip to Finland, Latvia and Turkey with a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee delegation, U.S. Senator Angus King said on Tuesday it was too early to say whether a resolution might be reached soon, but it probably won’t. be made by Madrid.
While Ukraine has dominated the preparation for the summits, the leaders also have other priorities.
At the G-7, Scholz hopes to rally his guests around his proposal for an international “climate club”. He said he wanted to use the German presidency to make the G-7 the “core” of such a club, which would be open to all.
Last month, G-7 ministers announced that they would aim to largely end greenhouse gas emissions from their electricity sectors by 2035 and aim for a “highly decarbonized road sector of ‘here 2030’. And they recognized for the first time the need to provide developing countries with additional financial assistance to deal with the loss and damage caused by global warming.
Activists are hoping for something more concrete.
Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate said leaders must “reaffirm their commitment to ending fossil fuel funding abroad” amid fears of backsliding in a rush for alternatives to Russian gas.
Samuel Petrequin in Brussels, Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, and Zeke Miller in Washington, contributed to this report.