| 23°C Dublin

G7 Leaders: Show of muscle at G7 summit, but breaking Putin’s food blockage is going to take more than tough talk

Close

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Ki

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Ki

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Ki

It was a lighthearted moment on a day of extremely weighty decisions. “Jackets on? Jackets off? Do we take our coats off?” Boris Johnson asked his fellow G7 leaders as they sat down for lunch in Bavaria.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, suggested they wait for the official photograph, before Mr Johnson said: “we have to show that we’re tougher than Putin”.

“We’re going to get the bare-chested horseback riding display,” replied Mr Trudeau, referring to Putin’s infamous 2009 photo-op of where he is riding shirtless on a horse.

“Horseback riding is the best,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, said.

“We’ve got to show them our pecs,” added Mr Johnson.

The summit in Bavaria is unlike any previous G7 meeting in the group’s history.

A few hours before Mr Johnson spoke, Ukrainian rescuers were digging a seven-year-old girl out of the ruins of a Kyiv apartment block blown up by a Russian cruise missile.

Some 50 rockets struck Kyiv and other cities on Sunday, the first large strike on the Ukrainian capital in weeks and an unmistakable message from Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin does not care for the world’s largest democratic economies; it will strike where and when it likes; and it will brutally retaliate everytime the West delivers Ukraine new weapons.

Earlier in the morning, Mr Johnson said that the price of allowing Vladimir Putin to succeed in Ukraine will be “far, far higher” than the cost of backing down in the face of Russian aggression.

“The most incredible thing about the way the West has responded to the invasion of Ukraine by Putin has been the unity - Nato has been solid, the G7 has been solid and we continue to be solid,” he said.

“But in order to protect that unity, in order to make it work, we’ve got to have really, really honest discussions about the implications of what’s going on, the pressures that individual friends and partners are feeling, that populations are feeling - whether it’s on the costs of their energy or food or whatever.”

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

Mr Johnson is right: the task in front of the leaders gathered in Berlin is graver than anything any of them have faced in their lifetimes.

But Mr Putin will not be impressed by stern words, even those delivered by a bluffer of Mr Johnson’s calibre.

If they are serious about helping Ukraine win, G7 leaders must spend big on economic and military aid - and do so possibly for years.

They need to re-equip, at vast expense, their heavy industries to churn out more ammunition and guns than Russia can.

And they need to prepare their respective publics for pain that is going to get much worse before it gets better.

The inflation, fuel and food crises sparked by the war are only just beginning.

Vladimir Putin is betting that Western democracies do not have the grit and resolve necessary for that.

And despite Mr Johnson’s blithe words about Western unity, there are indeed signs of strain.

Germany, which has notoriously slow-pedalled arms to Ukraine, is the most obvious waverer at the table in Bavaria.

There is widespread suspicion in Kyiv that Olof Scholz, the German chancellor, is more concerned with gas supplies and renewing business ties with Russia than opposing its wars of aggression.

But Germany is not alone in facing those pressures.

When winter arrives, Europe’s dependence on Russian gas could cause chaos across the continent.

Even those less dependent on Russian energy, like Britain and France, will face voters struggling with food, fuel and other inflation.

There are important differences even between the more hawkish allies. Joe Biden, the US president, has shot down a plan by Mr Johnson to ban bio-fuels in order to ease the looming food crisis.

Mr Putin hopes all this will translate into pressure on Kyiv to surrender.

That pressure goes well beyond the G7 - who represent only a fraction of the world’s population.

If the United States, Britain and Europe want to win the battle for international support, they must come up with some way to break Mr Putin’s food blockage. It is a Herculean task. Mr Johnson may be right: the cost of failure would be much worse. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


Most Watched





Privacy