International tensions and fresh sanctions loom over 50th G7 Summit in Italy

by Joshua Taggart, Consultant

As the current holder of the G7 Presidency, Giorgia Meloni should have had the pleasure of hosting fellow leaders from the USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada and Japan. However, this year’s Summit in Capri was less of a pleasure and more of an urgency in the wake of two international conflicts: Ukraine and Gaza.

In the case of the former, Foreign Minister David Cameron is urging his colleagues to provide further funding for Ukraine, including Patriot air defence systems to guard from Russian ordinance. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell noted that Russia has been targeting civilian infrastructure including power plants and hospitals. Both sides have been at a stalemate for months, which benefits Russia due to greater manpower and resources, and Ukraine’s front line is at risk of faltering if more support is not provided.

The main hurdle to bolstering Ukraine’s aid is American opposition. Congress will finally vote this Saturday on an additional $61bn for Ukraine after months of opposition from the Republicans forcing Speaker Mike Johnson to take a firm stance against his own party. With pro-Russian elements and isolationists within the Republican Party, as well as those who simply think funding priority should go to domestic affairs like securing the US-Mexican border, this may be a difficult mountain to climb. With the Presidential election in November and Republican nominee Donald Trump demanding the money be “a loan, not a giveaway”, Republican dissenters will want to continue holding out for a potential change in power.

The other pressing matter is the potential escalation of conflict in the Middle East, as Iran launched a large offensive strike of over 300 drones and missiles against Jerusalem on 13th April. All G7 leaders have condemned Iran for its strike, which took place after Israeli operations in Syria resulted in the death of an Iranian officer.

For both Russia and Iran, the threat of further sanctions from the G7 may not have the gravitas which Western leaders would hope. Russia has been under severe sanctions since February 2022 when it launched its invasion, while Iranian sanctions have been ongoing since the Ayatollah took power in 1979, spearheaded by US President Jimmy Carter.

Sanctions have questionable efficacy – either failing to impact Western supply chains interacting with the sanctioned nation in question, or simply diverting resources towards another bloc, particularly China, without addressing the core of the problem. Sanctions are, of course, intended as a blunt tool of dissuasion to force Russia to back down, and yet the conflict has only intensified with Russia’s economy holding firm due to high oil prices and ‘shadow trade deals’ to retain access to Western goods. If Russia’s economy isn’t suffering despite thousands of sanctions over multiple years, and the West can’t break the deadlock between Russian and Ukrainian forces with continuing funds and arms, it augers poorly for the integrity of Ukraine’s borders. 

The other piece of the puzzle – far more unpredictable and troubling than the stalemate in eastern Ukraine – is the extent to which Iran’s actions will result in further escalation in the Middle East. Iran’s strikes were a clear tit-for-tat escalation following Israel’s escalation on the embassy in Damascus, and Israel’s overnight missile strike on Isfahan may just be the start of a new phase of operations. What this phase will look like is unknown, but considering this was a direct strike by Iran on Israel’s citizens – thankfully repelled without any casualties – will mean that Israel’s response will be severe.

The G7 is surprisingly unified on their condemnation of Iran, but tensions about continuing to fund Ukraine without results will put further pressure on Ukrainian forces, and domestic pressure in the USA and Italy in particular will only increase as the war drags on. Recent attacks on Chernihiv and the increasing use of missiles by Russia indicates that a direct strike on Kyiv in the months to come is becoming more and more likely.

Other topics for the G7 to discuss, whether it be domestic security against Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies, Chinese military exercises off the coast of Taiwan, or Houthi aggression against Western forces in the Red Sea, will all have to take a back seat to these ongoing conflicts. 

The G7 must continue to be unified in the face of these threats and the escalation of conflict in multiple spheres. Multipolarity is demonstrating now more than ever how fragile and precious peace truly is.

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