World leaders in US to tackle woes

World leaders in US to tackle woes

World leaders in US to tackle woes

President Gül (L), German Chancellor Merkel (C) and US President Obama talk before a meeting which marking NATO’s 60th anniversary in this 2009 photo. AFP photo

World leaders are convening in the United States in an extraordinary weekend of back-to-back summits to tackle Europe’s mounting economic woes and solidify plans for winding down the decade-long war in Afghanistan.

U.S. President Barack Obama hosts G-8 leaders at Camp David before traveling to Chicago for the NATO summit on May 20-21. The G-8 countries, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Russia, will focus largely on economic issues, while the NATO meeting will focus on Afghanistan and other thorny issues including the alliance’s missile defense system. All but Russia are sending their heads of government. 

New French President François Hollande was scheduled to meet with Obama to cement a bond at the White House on May 18 and attend a lunch hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, before traveling to Camp David.

The G-8 talks are expected to be dominated by the eurozone crisis, though no economic policy decisions are expected from the talks. However, officials said Obama hoped to promote a discussion on a comprehensive approach to resolving the crisis. British Prime Minister David Cameron has become increasingly vocal in demanding Europe’s leaders act more decisively to take the edge off austerity with more job-creating infrastructure investments. Canada’s Stephen Harper has also been a frequent critic, and of the eurozone G-8 members, Italian premier Mario Monti was calling for profound growth measures even before Hollande. That could leave Germany’s Angela Merkel, who insists that debt-cutting programs cannot be diluted, cutting a lonely figure. 

Smart defense on the agenda

Immediately following the G-8 summit, Obama and most of the other leaders are expected to fly to Chicago evening to join other heads of state from NATO. Prior to the start of the summit, Obama will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan is expected to be the central focus of the summit. Missile defense will be another major summit issue, with the announcement that the new missile defense system has reached interim operational capability.

Additionally, the agenda includes implementing NATO’s new “smart defense” doctrine, which calls for pooling and sharing capabilities of member nations in a time of austerity. The summit will also seek to shrink the yawning gap between U.S. and European military capabilities.

A Turkish delegation, headed by President Abdullah Gül, will represent Turkey at the summit. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz will accompany the president. Foreign and defense ministers of member countries of the alliance are also scheduled to hold separate meetings on the sidelines of the summit.