As Ukraine war continues, can the G7 summit amp up pressure on Russia?

Click to play video: 'G7 stresses need for denuclearization'
G7 stresses need for denuclearization
WATCH: Also, the G7 stressed the need for denuclearization during Friday's meeting in Japan. Mackenzie Gray reports. – May 19, 2023

A high-stakes meeting of G7 leaders is set to kick off in Japan against the backdrop of the looming regional threat from China and the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Both issues will be front and centre when the Group of Seven (G7) summit gets underway in Hiroshima Friday, but there are questions about how the world’s advanced economies will set aside their own differences to tackle them.

The G7 nations – Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Japan – have all taken a strong united stand against Russia’s invasion, with more sanctions against Russia and military aid for Ukraine expected to be announced at the summit.

Click to play video: 'G7 summit: Ukraine, nuclear disarmament key focuses'
G7 summit: Ukraine, nuclear disarmament key focuses

Those measures have so far been resisted by Moscow, so in order to change the course of the Ukraine war – now into its second year – the G7 will have to step up and take bolder action, one expert said.

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“This is a meeting that is ripe with opportunities, but also invites us to go beyond rhetoric and actually change policy,” said Aurel Braun, professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto.

Declaratory statements and sanctions alone will not be enough, and the G7 leaders will have to boost their military support — and with greater urgency — to have the desired effect on Russia, he said. And that will mean increasing and improving their own military capabilities.

Click to play video: 'War in Ukraine: Zelenskyy pushing for fighter jet ‘coalition’'
War in Ukraine: Zelenskyy pushing for fighter jet ‘coalition’

“Canada and Italy are the two big ones in the G7 that need to move to enhance their hard power so they can make the kind of contribution that is necessary,” said Braun.

Germany, which is Europe’s largest economy, faced criticism at the start of the war for what some called a hesitant response, but it has since become one of Ukraine’s biggest providers of financial and military assistance.

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The German government announced a 2.7 billion euro (C$3.9 billion) package of military aid to Ukraine on Saturday, its biggest such package since Russia’s invasion.

Billions of dollars in military, humanitarian and financial assistance have been sent from G7 nations to Ukraine since the start of the invasion.

Since February 2022, Canada has committed over $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, which includes eight Leopard 2 battle tanks, an advanced surface-to-air missile system, 39 armoured combat support vehicles, anti-tank weapons, small arms, M777 howitzers, high-resolution drone cameras and more, according to the federal government.

Click to play video: 'Germany pledges biggest military aid package to Ukraine as Zelenskyy visits country'
Germany pledges biggest military aid package to Ukraine as Zelenskyy visits country

While it appears the support has been pouring in, Braun argues that in reality, it has been slow and not enough.

“We need to give to Ukraine what they need faster and in larger quantities,” he said.

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European leaders promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy an arsenal of missiles, tanks and drones during his whirlwind three-day visit to Italy, Germany, France and the U.K. that wrapped up Monday.

However, his demand for western fighter jets has been resisted so far amid NATO concerns about escalating the alliance’s role in the war.

Zelenskyy, who is expected to virtually join a G7 session on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, might use that opportunity to reiterate his call to form an international “fighter jet coalition.”

The G7 nations will also have to see eye to eye on how they want to end the conflict, while also keeping in mind other geopolitical concerns, notably related to China, an ally of Russia.

“They need to paper over any differences. They need to project an image where they stand shoulder to shoulder with no light between them,” said Braun.

A U.S. official, speaking to reporters on Thursday ahead of the gathering, said the G7’s latest efforts were aimed at disrupting Russia’s ability to get materials it needs for the battlefield, close loopholes used to evade sanctions, further reduce international reliance on Russian energy, and narrow Moscow’s access to the international financial system.

The latest U.S. sanctions package will include “extensively restricting categories of goods key to the battlefield” as well as preventing some 70 entities from Russia and third countries from receiving U.S. exports by adding them to the U.S. Commerce Department’s blacklist.

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In addition, the United States will announce some 300 new sanctions against individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft targeting “financial facilitators,” Russia’s future energy extracting capabilities, and others across Europe, the Middle East and Asia helping to support the war.

Click to play video: '‘Bring Russia to its senses,’ Macron urges Xi during visit to China'
‘Bring Russia to its senses,’ Macron urges Xi during visit to China

There will also be a focus on Beijing’s escalating threats against Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island Beijing claims as its own, and ways to reduce western democracies’ economic and supply chain dependency on China.

Divisions on China were put in sharp focus after French President Emmanuel Macron visited the country last month and called for the European Union to reduce its dependence on the United States.

At the Hiroshima summit, the G7 will be looking to strengthen co-operation on the Indo-Pacific region. But it remains to be seen how direct the language will be toward China given the close economic ties.

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China is the world’s second-largest economy and a key global manufacturing base and market.

How the G7 will deal with the “great power competition” is an important issue for the summit, said Narushige Michishita, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo.

“They have to address economic security and how to deal with sensitive technologies,” Michishita told Reuters.

“Everything is part of the great power competition that is taking place between the United States and Russia, and the United States and China.”

— with files from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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