The participation of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in the G-7 summit in Hiroshima holds significant symbolic importance. The choice of Hiroshima sends a message of a nuclear-free world, while Zelenskyy’s surprise attendance draws attention to the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons. In addition to this emphasis, the explicit support of G-7 countries for Zelenskyy and President Biden’s statement on F-16s also stand out as political developments with a deterrent effect on Russia. By addressing the Taiwan issue, a clear political message was conveyed, making this G-7 meeting the most politically significant so far.
The presence of leaders from countries such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Australia at the summit, who also held meetings with Zelenskyy, was concerning for Russia. The meetings between Zelenskyy and leaders from the “Global South” countries, which remained hesitant regarding Ukraine’s occupation, demonstrated that support for Ukraine extended beyond the Western countries. Although Russia attempted to diminish Zelenskyy’s influence at the summit by declaring the capture of Bahmut, messages of support to Ukraine indicate that the war will not end in the short term and that the cost for Russia will increase.
The inclusion of leaders from countries like India and Brazil, who strive to remain neutral on the Ukrainian issue, at the G-7 summit provided a separate opportunity for Zelenskyy. Immediately after his visit to Saudi Arabia last week, the Ukrainian leader sought to persuade leaders who prioritize relations with the West, such as Modi and Lula, but do not want to antagonize Russia. It may not be realistic to expect these leaders to confront Russia directly, but even their meetings with Zelenskyy can be considered sufficient to send a message to Moscow.
President Biden’s announcement of collaborating with Europe on providing F-16 training to Ukrainian pilots and the reversal of allies’ opposition to supplying F-16s can be regarded as a significant victory for Zelenskyy. The Ukrainian leader, who constantly requested heavy and more sophisticated weapons from the West, faced concerns about Russia resorting to nuclear weapons or escalating the conflicts uncontrollably. The announcement of F-16 training and supply, with a guarantee that Russia would not be directly targeted, carries critical importance for the course of the war.
Previously, Russia’s air superiority was hindered by air defense systems, but the F-16s could effectively protect Ukrainian airspace. The deployment of F-16s will take time and may not have an immediate impact on the current course of the war. However, this step prepares for the scenario of Russia temporarily pausing the war and attempting future invasion. Having F-16s, without the issue of NATO integration, will also lay the groundwork for Ukraine’s membership in the alliance.
By rejecting online participation suggestions at the G-7 summit, Zelenskyy insisted on personally meeting with the world’s economic leaders. After his visit to Saudi Arabia, he found an opportunity to continue his efforts to persuade countries striving for neutrality. With the announcement of military aid through F-16s, Zelenskyy achieved an important strategic gain, projecting an image of Russia becoming increasingly isolated on the international stage. However, it would not be surprising if Russia attempts a diplomatic counterattack in the coming days.
Despite numerous doubts and occasional problems in taking a firm stance against Russia since the beginning of Ukraine’s occupation, the Biden administration managed to keep Europe together. Looking at the events of the G-7 summit, it can be said that the aim is to convince powers pursuing a balanced policy towards Russia and expand the front line. However, the impact of the messages to other countries by Russia and China remains questionable, considering the debt limit crisis faced by Biden, weakening his global leadership, and the effectiveness of the messages.
After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia was excluded from the G8. The presence of the Ukrainian leader at the G7, especially in recent years when attempts were made to develop a common stance against China, indicates a growing opposition to the Russia-China alliance within the “rich club.” While Russia tries to portray its support for Ukraine as a Western initiative limited to Europe and the United States, China accuses the West of pursuing a new Cold War. The participation of Zelenskyy and leaders from the “Global South” at the G-7 aims to debunk these two arguments.
Whether Biden’s efforts to involve other allies, including neutral countries, together with Europe against Russia and China will be lasting depends on domestic political developments. In addition to the debt limit crisis, we are entering a period where potential Republican presidential candidates will criticize support for Ukraine and the severing of ties with Russia in the internal race. It will be crucial for Biden, who is unlikely to receive significant support from Congress during the “lame-duck” period, to resolve the budget issue and win the 2024 elections to maintain the permanence of the United States’ global leadership. It is evident that potential Republican candidates like Trump and DeSantis do not share Biden’s aspirations for global leadership through multinational alliances such as NATO and the G-7.