Russia's Challenges as Chair of the G-8

Policy Brief
March 2006

Anders ÅslundRussia's chairmanship of the G-8 raises questions about its fitness for the task. While it is certainly a market economy, Russia can no longer lay claims to being even semidemocratic. The G-8 should not be swept up in a celebration of Putin's authoritarian power during the St. Petersburg summit. While there are pitfalls, the G-8 can still accomplish important work if the democratic members work together. These members should convene a mini-summit in a Baltic capital such as Vilnius on their way to St. Petersburg to express support for democracy in Russia and for the sovereignty of the former Soviet republics. They could also address traditional G-7 topics in which Russia has no competence, especially by adding a strong political push to the Doha Round, which cannot be expected from Russia, as it is not yet even a member of the World Trade Organization. The G-8 can also usefully revive the Energy Charter, designed to increase energy security and rational use of energy, and expand its membership to include other large economies, such as China and India.