The summit will be the first significant meeting of world leaders since Iran elected a moderate president late last week. Hasan Rowhani, a favorite among Iranian reformers, will take the reins of power from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though it is unclear whether the change will slow Iran’s quest to develop nuclear weapons.
Also over the weekend, North Korean state media reported that leaders in the communist nation are willing to sit down with the U.S. for “high-level talks”in an attempt to ease tension in the region. How the U.S. and its allies will deal with North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, and whether the proposed talks will materialize, also will be important parts of the G-8 meeting.
U.S. at odds with allies
U.S. domestic policy also will be raised, though not by Mr. Obama’s choice. Analysts say European leaders are likely to voice their displeasure — perhaps in public — with American surveillance programs. Recent revelations that the National Security Agency has gathered telephone records and other data on millions of Americans without their knowledge will draw rebuke from figures at the G-8, said Heather A. Conley, senior fellow and director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Europe has a much deeper desire for privacy. Not that Americans aren’t deeply concerned about this, but we tend to view security as a greater priority; there have to be some sacrifices made. In Europe, they tend to think there shouldn’t be any sacrifices made,” she said.
European nations, Ms. Conley said, already are disheartened with the Obama administration’s handling of the war on terrorism. Their hope that Mr. Obama would depart from policies of George W. Bush has been dashed as the incumbent president has followed the same playbook as his predecessor.
“There is some disappointment in Europe. They thought there would be a more significant break on these practices between the Bush administration and the Obama administration,” Ms. Conley said. “Whether it’s drones or another issue, the president is actually implementing some of these policies. In some ways Europe is awakening to the fact that there is a continuance of U.S. policy. There is a preconceived idea that Americans are very security-conscious and will be willing to sacrifice some of their liberties for the sake of security.”
Resistance from Russia
At the other end of the spectrum, Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced support for U.S. surveillance policies, saying the collection of phone records is a step that a “civilized society” should take to fight terrorism.
On Syria, however, the U.S. is at odds with Russia, an ally of the Assad regime. The G-8 summit will serve as the venue for a face-to-face meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin, who have very different opinions on the way forward in Syria.
Late last week, Russia rejected U.S. assertions that Mr. Assad had used chemical weapons. Mr. Putin’s key senior foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said the American case “does not look convincing.”
Although Russia isn’t likely to get on board with the plan to assist Syrian rebels, it may begrudgingly accept intervention if the U.S. and its allies appear united in the effort, Mr. Jouejati said.
At the G-8 forum, Mr. Obama is expected to push Mr. Putin to back a plan to remove Mr. Assad from power, or at least help facilitate peace meetings between the Syrian government and its opponents.
“Russia is very impressed by power. If it sees there is a U.S. determination to continue backing the opposition I think Russia would become more flexible,” Mr. Jouejati said.