Russia will host the the Group of Eight (G8) summit in St. Petersburg on July 15-17. The following is a brief introduction of Russia's participation in the G8:
Russia's first contacts with the Group of Seven (G7) countries occurred in the Soviet era. On July 17, 1991, the Soviet Union's president, Mikhail Gorbachev, met G7 leaders on the sidelines of their summit in London.
Since then the G7 leaders have used the same format for meeting the Russian president, in Munich in 1992 and in Tokyo in 1993, which resulted in the establishment of direct interaction between the G7 and Russia on a number of international political and economic issues.
The formation of the G8 began at the Naples summit in 1994 with its first part being held in the G7 format, and the second involving Russia's president as an equal partner.
The most important stage for further development of the G8 was the 1995 summit in Halifax, Canada. It gave a fresh impetus for establishing practical cooperation on a number of global problems and for creating G8 working mechanisms involving Russia.
Russia's proposal to stage a G8 summit in Moscow on April 19-20, 1996, on nuclear security, which was to be co-chaired by the Russian and French presidents, was of principal importance for its entry into the club.
Russia's cooperation with its partners reached a new level at the Lyons summit in June 1996. On the Russian leadership's proposal, the summit was divided into three stages. The first one, held in the G7 format, was devoted to a number of international economic issues, while the other two involving Russia dealt with a wide range of global and political problems.
The Denver summit in June 1997 was held as a meeting of equal G8 partners. In the final communique, the partners recognized that Russia was "completing a historical transition to a democratic state with a market economy."
On Russia's proposal, it was decided to develop G8 cooperation in energy security and to hold a G8 ministers' meeting in Moscow to discuss global energy problems. This took place on March 31- April 1, 1998.
The summit in Birmingham in May 1998 had three major issues on the agenda: employment, efforts against organized crime and global economic issues, including the South-East Asian financial crisis. On Russia's proposal, global energy problems were taken up. It was decided to stage a ministers' conference on fighting organized crime in Moscow on October 19-20, 1999.
A significant indication of Russia's strengthening position in the G8 and of it reaching a new qualitative level in its relations with its partners came with the historical decision at the summit in Kananaskis, Canada, in June 2002, to entrust Russia with the G8 rotating presidency in 2006. The move testified to the partners' recognition of Russia's growing role in the modern world.
The Kananaskis summit discussed a wide range of inter-related problems of international security and strategic stability, including nonproliferation regimes, arms control and disarmament.
Russia was also actively involved in other discussions in Kananaskis: the global fight against poverty and ensuring stable development, the state of the world's economy and Africa's problems.
At the G8 summit in Evian, France, in June 2003, which was held amid a complicated international situation, aggravated by the consequences of the war in Iraq, Russia for the first time took part in preparing all the financial and economic documents for the summit. This was an important step toward its final integration into the club's financial and economic structures.
The Evian summit adopted new practical decisions on fighting terrorism: a Counter-terrorism Action Group (CTAG) was set up to provide targeted aid to third countries for their efforts against terrorism.
At the summit on Sea Island, the United States, on June 8-10, 2004, Russia continued strengthening the role of the G8 in collective decision-making on the most pressing issues of global politics and economic matters. The meeting worked out and adopted the Secure and Facilitated International Travel Initiative (SAFTI), which details 28 specific areas of cooperation.
In 2005, during Britain's rotating presidency of the G8, the club paid special attention to working out common approaches to the problems of Africa's development and overcoming the negative consequences of climate change, as well as developing environmentally safe sources of energy.
A successful first presidency in the Group of Eight is one of Russia's foreign policy priorities. The work on the contents and organization of the summit is progressing successfully. Priority issues during Russia's G8 presidency will be international energy security, the fight against contagious diseases and education.
At the same time, the summit in St Petersburg will take up such traditional topics as counter-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) non-proliferation, the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking, environmental and other global problems, topical issues of the global economy, finance and trade, and escalating regional conflicts.