Russia has assumed the helm of the G20 forum of leading economies at a time of concern that the group – so decisive in the wake of 2008 global financial crisis – is in danger of losing its way. What can Moscow do during its year-long presidency to help restore the group’s credibility?
Colleagues at the Council on Foreign Relations have canvassed opinion, ‘hoping to assist the government of Russia in defining priorities’. As part of its Council of Councils initiative, which includes the IISS, the CFR has published a collection of policy ‘memos'; one comes from Sanjaya Baru, IISS director for Geo-economics and Strategy, and Samuel Charap, our senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia.
In ‘Russia and the G20′, Baru and Charap point out that Russia is unique in being both a member of the G8 leading industrialised nations and one of the BRICS (the term for the world’s fastest-growing emerging markets, which also refers to Brazil, India, China and South Africa). Although Moscow has a mixed record in leveraging its position between the West and ‘the rest’, it does have the potential to act as a bridge between advanced and developing economies, they believe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has set out five central issues for the G20 summit in St Petersburg this September, from reforming the international currency system to advancing discussions on energy security and climate change. Meanwhile, emerging nations have been calling for a greater role in international financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank, and the latest round of WTO trade negotiations has long been stalled.
The IISS authors focus on the ways in which the G20 could respond to its critics by taking forward the agenda agreed at its September 2009 summit in Pittsburgh to speed up the restructuring of the IMF and World Bank shareholdings, reviving the Doha Round of WTO talks and discouraging countries from ‘pursuing beggar-my-neighbor trade and currency policies’.
While they recognise the problems hampering the G20’s effectiveness – from national leaders’ current domestic preoccupations to overlap with G7, G8 and BRICS meetings – Baru and Charap suggest that the G20 has enormous influence over the IMF and the IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development), as it includes almost all the major shareholders. ‘Even the WTO can be guided by the G20′.
The same is not necessarily true, they argue, of other global negotiations, especially those relating to climate change, where many non-G20 countries have such major stakes.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso – who defiantly told the G20 meeting yesterday that American capitalism was to blame for the eurozone crisis – wouldn’t agree. However, as talks continue to form a government in Greece and Spain has been forced to delay an audit of banks amid fears that a bailout could top €100 billion, our Director for Geo-economics and Strategy Sanjaya Baru argues in his column this week for the Indian Express that ‘at the core of the financial crisis in Europe there is a leadership crisis’.
The EU has struggled to articulate ‘an idea of Europe’ and so to offer continent-wide solutions to continent wide problems, Baru says. ‘The challenge for the EU is to find its Ambedkar’ he suggests, referring to B.R. Ambdekar, the jurist and social reformer who spearheaded the drafting of the Indian Constitution.