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Discord dominates as Trump and other leaders plan G-7 summit

Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

BIARRITZ, France -- French President Emmanuel Macron, the host of this weekend's Group of Seven summit, has publicly expressed hope that the G-7 leaders will reaffirm a shared commitment to democratic ideals and multilateral cooperation in an era of political and economic turmoil.

That's probably wishful thinking.

Even before President Donald Trump leaves Friday for Biarritz, a glitzy resort on the southwest coast of France, he repeated his call for the elite group of industrialized nations to readmit Russia. It was expelled from the G-7 in 2014 after its troops invaded Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in what Western leaders called a violation of international law. Russia continues to occupy the area.

Trump also picked a fight with a longtime ally. He scrubbed a planned trip to Copenhagen because Denmark's prime minister refused to sell Greenland, calling the notion "absurd." He then called her comments "nasty," the latest reminder that the leader of the nation that has anchored the transatlantic alliance for seven decades doesn't fully share the values of traditional allies.

"There are no illusions anymore among the global leaders anymore about who (Trump) is," said Nicholas Burns, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO. "The global economy needs coordination at the top and he's not doing it. He's all for himself."

The serene backdrop of Biarritz, famous as a summer getaway since the time of Napoleon, belies the tensions roiling much of the industrialized world.


Global markets are slowing in part due to the damaging trade war and reciprocal tariffs between the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies. A wave of nationalism, partly fed by fear of migration from Africa, is imperiling democratic leaders across Europe. And new threats to global security abound from Afghanistan to Kashmir, from Syria to the South China Sea.

This will be the first G-7 summit for the new pro-Brexit British prime minister, Boris Johnson, still a wild card on the world stage. Johnson's pledge to quit the European Union on Oct. 31 -- with or without an agreement -- threatens to destabilize the world's fifth largest economy and reignite tensions between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It also will be the last summit for Giuseppe Conte, who resigned as Italy's prime minister on Tuesday rather than face an election demanded by Matteo Salvini, a nationalist demagogue whose popularity has continued to rise. Conte will attend in a caretaker role.

Germany's powerful chancellor, Angela Merkel, is coming as a lame duck. She is not running for reelection and her country's economy -- the largest in Europe -- is in danger of slipping into recession. Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is in a bitter dispute with South Korea as two of America's closest allies in Asia wrestle over trade and compensation for wartime forced labor.


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