The G7 Summit in Hiroshima Echoes Nuclear Fears

    The G7 leaders had their sights on the Ukraine-Russia war. Over the past few weeks, speculations abounded about the possibility of a major Ukrainian counteroffensive, reflected by talks around supplying Ukraine with F16 fighter jets. This development came after German Leopard-2 tanks were supplied to equip the Ukrainian army. The main objective of these incremental steps is to impede Russia’s advance. The absence of a clear victor in this prolonged war has positioned the US as the primary beneficiary since it considerably degrades the capabilities of a challenging power without sending troops on the ground.

    Leaders of the world’s largest economies created the G8 platform in the 1970s to discuss economic policies and coordinate efforts over time. From security concerns to climate change and human rights issues, the G8’s purpose evolved, growing in importance for state actors grappling with global matters. Russia was a member of the G8 from 1998 until 2014. However, Russia’s annexation of Crimea as well as its involvement in supporting separatists in Eastern Ukraine led to its exclusion. As a result, the summit took the format of G7. 

    After expelling Russia, there was a significant shift in the group’s dynamics. After all, Moscow’s non-democratic meddling worldwide was seen as incompatible with core principles promoted by this summit’s membership. These principles included ideals like respecting international law combined with democratic values and upholding human rights.

    Meanwhile, Hiroshima’s hosting of this year’s G7 summit carries much symbolism as the world faces another threat of nuclear warfare.

    In Hiroshima, more than 200 thousand civilians and innocents died due to the Fat Man and Little Boy atomic bombs used by the United States during World War II. The detonations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki revealed the undeniable truth that nuclear bombs cause an unacceptable humanitarian tragedy, forever etching a black page in human history.

    Russia’s failure in attempting to gain control over Ukrainian territory, along with the aid received by Ukraine from EU and NATO members, has led Russia to up the ante and threaten to use nuclear weapons. Statements by Putin and former Prime Minister Medvedev threatening to resort to nuclear weapons have sparked a new wave of tension.

    Russia reserves the right to deploy nuclear weapons when faced with aggression posed by conventional weaponry that threatens its territorial integrity as per its nuclear doctrine. However, there are growing concerns that Putin, who has been in power in Russia for almost a quarter of a century, may not respect this doctrine scrupulously. The value of doctrinal statements can easily be disregarded when the regime experiences significant strain. 

    Moreover, Russia’s disputed takeover of Crimea and four oblasts in eastern Ukraine raises questions about Moscow’s stance on preserving state existence and defining borders. Russia claims ownership of Ukrainian territories following a referendum held in four oblasts, which many countries recognise as unlawful. 

    Nevertheless, the Ukrainian army has retaken a significant part of the Kherson oblast from the Russian invasion, although the Kherson oblast is one of the four oblasts recognised by the Kremlin as Russian territory. From the Russian perspective, this is seen as an attack on “Russian lands.” 

    The volatile situation presents challenges for the Kremlin now that Ukraine is taking steps towards reclaiming its occupied territories. To deter Western support for Ukraine and prevent any future advancements made by them, the Kremlin has expressed its readiness to use nuclear weapons if necessary.

    Zelensky attended the G7 summit in the city of Hiroshima, where a nuclear bomb was used for the first time on civilians 78 years ago. During the summit, the leaders shared a common message of support for Ukraine. The victory statements made after Russia’s protracted operations to take full control of Bakhmut were insufficient to cast a shadow over the summit’s proceedings.

    The United States stepped back from withholding high-tech offensive weapons to Ukraine and gave the green light for supplying F-16 warplanes to Ukraine, unveiling a new $375 million military aid package. Meanwhile, Russia’s 2023 defence budget stands at approximately $84 billion, 40% higher than its pre-war status, which further burdens the Russian economy, already crippled with economic sanctions.

    The post-summit statement made it clear that the G7 leaders would continue to assist Ukraine and strive to isolate Russia further. 

    The nuclear threat looms ominously, not only over Ukraine but also the world. Sadly, given its long-standing support for this country, should such attacks come from Russia against innocent Ukrainians, there are no guarantees as to how the US and NATO will respond. It is not only about Russia and Ukraine. Other states have similar weaponry and could complicate the situation. There are no clear winners in such a scenario – only the loss of our shared humanity.

    This article originally appeared in the opinion section of the website Middle East Monitor.

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