George Bush’s Hard Choice
// The U.S. shirks a G8 emergency summit
Bush is afraid to go there
Japan and Italy, this year and next year’s G8 chairs, are trying to get George Bush to visit a G8 emergency summit focusing on the global financial crisis. George Bush shows no enthusiasm, however: he doesn’t want to share the same table with Russia’s President, which would mean forgiving Dmitry Medvedev for the military operation in Georgia. The Japanese party says that negotiations could be organized in Tokyo airport if no other opportunities are found. ITAR-TASS correspondent Vassily Golovnin reports from Tokyo especially for Kommersant.
“No, there has been no preparation for the emergency summit, there is no concrete plan yet,” a high-ranking official with the Japanese Foreign Ministry told me evasively yesterday. “But we are ready to organize a meeting of that kind if other countries agree to it.” Tokyo sends a clear message that such meetings can be held only in Japan, which chairs the G8 now.
Much depends on the U.S. – Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso said that it is Washington that will determine whether the summit will be held or not. According to sources, Mr Aso also said that Americans’ refusal to visit a summit will demonstrate confusion among the world’s leading countries and can even aggravate the financial crisis.
On October 10 the Japanese Prime Minister supported the idea to hold a G8 emergency summit, where global leaders could discuss financial matters. Some experts opine that it would be sound to invite the Chinese and Indian heads-of-state. Tokyo believes that a summit could be scheduled for the end of October. In the view of the Japanese, an emergency business summit will give the market the required impetus showing that the G8 leaders do not just hold ritualistic ceremonies every year, rather, they are ready to take prompt collective decisions when the future of the global economy is jeopardized.
Such rhetoric always points to personal interest: Prime Minister Taro Aso would certainly use the chance to show off before TV cameras as a chairman of a globally important meeting. Even more so given that Japan is likely to hold early parliamentary elections, where the ruling party has quite good prospects. Europeans have similar objectives in view: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who chairs the European Unions now, has officially called on his counterparts to hold an emergency financial summit this year, where he, as the EU leader, would like to play an important role. Silvio Berlusconi is also eager to take advantage of the summit – as next year’s G8 Chairman the Italian Prime Minister would like to take the tempting role of the savior of the world economy.
On Monday he conducted talks with the U.S. President, and on the completion of their conversation, he announced at the press conference that George Bush is ready to hold an emergency financial meeting with the G8 leaders “within a couple of weeks”. The journalists, however, noticed that George Bush didn’t react to such an interesting message at all. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino cleared it up later, “There is neither date nor decision to old a meeting like that.”
The U.S. Administration is “open to” the idea to hold such a meeting in the future, she explained the press. But so far it is too early to discuss the possibility to conduct negotiations.
From Tokyo’s viewpoint, the Bush Administration is afraid to make steps they could regret in the future. Even more so provided that the U.S. electoral campaign is under way. At the summit Americans may have to respond to the reproaches of Europeans accusing Washington of reacting too late and too awkwardly to the impeding collapse in the American credit market, which fomented a global crisis. The Bush Administration would not like to take additional financial commitments, which is likely to be touched upon at the summit. Finally, the Russian President’s inevitable participation in the forum could show that Washington’s threats to isolate Moscow diplomatically after the war in Georgia are nothing else but idle rhetoric.
The European Union resumes its contacts with Russia; and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman has paid a visit to Moscow. Against this background George Bush’s handshake with Dmitry Medvedev would look like complete capitulation and acknowledgement of “business as usual” regardless of the tough statements regarding Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
This said, Tokyo thinks that even if Washington finally agrees to visit the summit, it will take place after the U.S. election (unless the crisis blows over itself). The Japanese have already chosen the venue for the meeting – one of the leaders of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said that the best venue is Tokyo international airport, whose territory can be easily blocked. The world’s key people could have a brief meeting without the need to drive far from the airport, and then quickly leave for home.
All the Article in Russian as of Oct. 15, 2008