Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Rising Clout of Multilateralism Light

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Rising Clout of Multilateralism Light

Article excerpt

The G-20 takes on a stronger role in informal international decision-making.

Vladimir Putin is wrong. The Russian president's welcome message to the participants of the G-20 summit that begins on Thursday in St. Petersburg asserts that the meeting "will confirm the G-20's role as an efficient mechanism for coordinating the world's leading economies' approaches to global economy and finance."

It will do no such thing. It will not produce novel ideas about "growth through trust and transparency." It will not be remembered for promoting "quality jobs and investment." Rather, it will be remembered as the meeting where the G-20 took over the role of the United Nations Security Council.

Sounds preposterous? Consider two different scenarios for the St. Petersburg summit. Let's start with the more unlikely one: The leaders will weigh the evidence about the use of chemical weapons and decide that it is acceptable for the United States to go ahead with a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria. What will be the role of the U.N. Security Council afterwards? It will simply endorse the decision made by the G-20 leaders.

Let us move to the more likely scenario: The leaders will not give their backing to a punitive strike. Will the Security Council be able to produce a different resolution? Not a chance.

Either way, the G-20 will have become the forum where questions of war and peace will be debated and decided.

We have been there before. The G-7 started out in the 1970s as a mechanism for coordinating the economic policies of the world's leading industrialized countries. By the decade's end it was dealing with cross-border hijacking, hostage crises and the ousting of the shah of Iran.

The G-7 became the G-8 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The reason for the addition of Russia was geopolitical. President Bill Clinton felt that it would be easier to deal with Boris Yeltsin if Russia was given a place among the leading post-Cold War powers. The strategy worked: The promise of a seat at the table was one reason Russia why decided to pull its troops out of the Baltic states. …

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