G7 Summit

Leaders of the G7 make fun of Putin's 'lack of a shirt'

Vladimir Putin holds a fish he caught during the hunting and fishing trip which took place on August 1-3 in the republic of Tyva in southern Siberia, Russia on August 5, 2017. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS

At a summit in Germany that was overshadowed by the Russian president's invasion of Ukraine, leaders of the Group of Seven rich nations derided the macho image of their absence of Vladimir Putin.

As the leaders sat down for their first meeting of the three-day G7 summit in the hot Bavarian Alps on Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wondered if they should remove their jackets – or maybe disrobe further.

"We must all demonstrate that we are tougher than Putin," Mr. Johnson said, eliciting chuckles from some of his colleagues.

"Bare-chested horseback riding," responded Justin Trudeau of Canada.

"Oh yes," responded European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Horseback riding is superior.

Mr. Johnson quipped, "We've got to show them our pecs" before the leaders stood for photos (with jackets on), and the media was ushered out of the room.

Mr. Putin, who values his sporting image, has been shirtless in several photographs published by Russian media, including a set in which he rode a brown horse while wearing wraparound sunglasses, a gold chain, and army pants.

The G7 leaders discussed attempts to further isolate Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people and the displacement of millions more.

Britain, Canada, Japan, and the United States declared plans to prohibit imports of Russian gold. Also included in the G7 are France, Italy, and Germany.

Elsewhere, NATO leaders are anticipated to encourage Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to waive his veto on Finland and Sweden's bid to join the military alliance as the West seeks to signal firmness to Russia and China.

Diplomats reported that negotiations were still ongoing within a frequently fractious organization but that leaders hoped to agree to provide more military aid to Ukraine, increase joint defense spending, solidify a new resolve to combat China's military rise, and place more troops on standby to defend the Baltics.

To combat migration and extremist organizations in the Sahel region of Africa, Spain is also advocating for a greater NATO emphasis on the southern flank.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will participate in a portion of the summit alongside the presidents of New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea, as part of a broader US policy for a more robust Western presence in the Indo-Pacific area to oppose China.

Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated, "We will do more to ensure that we can defend every square inch of allied territory, always and against any threat."

Although British and American officials have warned against a request for permanent multinational soldiers in the Baltic region, the summit will likely reach a compromise by providing immediate reinforcements.

Germany has already stated that it will deploy additional soldiers to defend Lithuania if Russia attempts to capture NATO territory. Britain is poised to do the same for Estonia, while Latvia is awaiting a commitment from Canada.

NATO, established in 1949 to counter the Soviet menace, has no obligation under the treaty to defend Ukraine, as the former Soviet republic is not a member.

But Mr. Putin's invasion on February 24 has prompted a geopolitical upheaval, as hitherto neutral countries Finland and Sweden seek to join NATO, and Ukraine has formally become an EU candidate.

If accepted, the addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO would result in the enlargement of the alliance that Mr. Putin sought to avoid.

"I believe it sends Putin an important message. Following a tour to Finland, Latvia, and Turkey, US Senator Angus King stated of Finland and Sweden, "I believe it would significantly strengthen the alliance."

However, Turkey is also testing this unity, outraged by what it perceives as Helsinki and Stockholm's support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes against Ankara.

A Turkish government official participating in discussions between the three nations and NATO's Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters that it would be difficult to negotiate during the summit since Sweden and Finland must first satisfy Turkish concerns.

"There were meetings, but the expected actions have not been taken," the official stated.

According to diplomats, Sweden has established a procedure for continued consultations. However, two senior NATO diplomats stated that the issue was more about politics than technical benchmarks.

Publish : 2022-06-27 08:07:00

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