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Invite the Arctic-5 to the G-7

President Trump recently announced his desire to invite Australia, South Korea, India and Russia to the forthcoming 2020 Group of 7 (G-7) summit. If COVID-19 allows, the meeting may be hosted in Washington, D.C. or at Camp David. This is a welcome and much needed expansion of the G-7. But it does not go far enough. 

The Arctic-5, composed of existing G-7 members Canada and the United States as well as Norway, Denmark and Russia, should be invited to the summit. In this instance, the Arctic-5 should be invited instead of the Arctic Council, because the latter is an international body for Arctic countries that is dedicated to promoting cooperation on economic, environmental and indigenous policies, not necessarily the geopolitics of NATO or High Arctic defense. Since the Arctic is a rapidly developing arena of international cooperation and dispute, replete with important economic and environmental questions, the G-7 should embrace increased discussion of the region. This is the type of situation the G-7 was built to oversee. 

Expanding the G-7 is not a new idea. The informal organization has steadily grown since its 1973 founding as the G-5. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Japan and West Germany formed its founding membership, with Italy being added in 1975, Canada in 1976 and Russia in 1997.

A central reason for the grouping was to bring together the world’s largest economies to collectively address matters of international import. Adding Australia, South Korea and India would reaffirm the G-7’s commitment to shared democratic and economic norms. These countries are among the 15 largest economies in the world measured in nominal dollars, so there is a natural fit. 

Russia was ousted from the then-G-8 in 2014 for annexing Crimea and waging proxy-war in the Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Until the Russian Federation normalizes its diplomatic status, G-7 members are unlikely to support Moscow’s reinstatement. But there are crucial points at which Russia should have some temporary access to the club — most importantly with regards to the Arctic. 

The Arctic-5 forms a loose international infrastructure for deliberation and negotiation in the High North — a region of increasing competition over its abundant energy, mineral and fishing resources. Since the United States and Canada are already members of the G-7, a semi-regular invitation to the remaining Arctic-5 countries would allow Norway, Denmark and Russia to discuss security and economic and environmental preservation in an expanded G-7. 

There is no need to offer a permanent invitation to the Arctic-5. The G-7 discusses a range of issues, which go beyond the Arctic-5’s limited scope. However, regular, formalized conversations with the region’s key stakeholders are necessary to establish and affirm international law in the High North. Without international legal infrastructure, the governance of the Arctic’s valuable resources will degenerate into clannish power grabs and disorganization. By providing the Arctic-5 a regular invitation to deliberate and negotiate on perhaps a biennial basis, the G-7 can monitor the region with support from the Arctic’s key players.  

Norway and Denmark are key NATO allies for several members of the G-7, and will bring an important perspective on the Arctic. Even though both are small countries with small economies, Norway and Denmark enjoy very high standards of living and very high per capita GDP. Providing Russia with regular, but impermanent access to the G-7 could incentivize diplomatic normalization and democratization while also maintaining sanction for Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

Ultimately, the proposed expansion of the G-7 would widen the circle of key democratic stakeholders in world affairs. Bringing the Arctic-5 to the G-7 is crucial to the orderly management of disputes and resources in the High North. If international infrastructure of this sort remains unestablished, the Arctic countries will have no choice but to fend for themselves.

Glen Duerr, Ph.D., is a policy fellow at the Wallace Institute for Arctic Security and associate professor of international studies at Cedarville University.

Tags Arctic Arctic cooperation and politics Donald Trump G-7 G-7 Geopolitics of the Arctic Russia Russia–United States relations

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