5 Things You Need to Know About the G8 and NATO Summits

This weekend, back-to-back international conferences will take place in the United States, hosted by President Obama. The G8 summit which hosts “the world’s 8 largest economies” (which is not actually accurate since countries like China are excluded) will take place at Camp David in Maryland. The great eight countries include France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the U.S., Canada and Russia.

The NATO summit will take place in Chicago. Most of the countries from the G8 Summit will attend that starting on Saturday and the discussions will cover slightly different issues. NATO exists as an intercontinental defense alliance, which means its topics will reflect less economic issues and more concerns about protection or stability.

A lot goes into these kinds of meetings. The leaders present will deal not just with pressing world issues, but also forge personal and international ties. Just like personality differences in any organization, the dynamics of these meetings will carry overtones of each country’s independent identity. It’s almost impossible to summarize all the issues and topics that could arise; however, these are the top 5 things to be looking for this weekend:

1. Afghanistan

The withdrawal from Afghanistan will be the top issue at NATO. While President Obama has made efforts to remove American troops from the region, some other countries such as the new leadership in France will want to speed up the process. NATO has already agreed to offer support to Afghan forces through 2014, but discussions will cover what to do after that. Future costs to support the local security forces are estimated at $4.1 billion. (The U. S. is expected to cover at least half of that cost.)

2. Euro Zone Crisis

President Obama in particular has urged Europe to stimulate growth and prevent another serious recession. This outlook might be slightly self-serving as a collapse in Europe would surely affect North America (and anything related to the economy will affect the U. S. elections in November). Great Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has also some out with strong reproach for Greece. While no one foresees the creation of any policies during the G8 summit, there will certainly be plenty of conversation regarding this issue and possibly ways to forestall a complete collapse.

3. Leadership Changes (Russia, France)

Russia has re-elected Vladamir Putin as President of Russia. Well, debatably. President Putin declined to attend the G8 Summit. Most likely because his hands are full of the protests in his own country from the opposition who claims he came into power through election fraud and coercion. Even without Putin present, his reemergence as a world leader (and his known agenda) will certainly come up during discussions such as NATO’s missile defense.

The other newly elected leader, certain to turn heads, is France’s President Francois Hollande. President Hollande has already come out strongly against his predecessor, former President Nicolas Sarkozy who aligned himself with the U. S. The new French President has already made bold statements such as plans to pull all French combat troops from Afghanistan before the end of the year. He has also taken a stance against Europe’s recent focus on austerity (deficit-cutting through less spending). President Hollande promises to strike a controversial tone at both summits.

4. Stability in the Middle East

The ever-continuing saga of the Middle East will surely be picked apart. Iran’s threat of nuclear defense will continue economic sanctions on Tehran (which mostly consist of trade bans). NATO will do all it can to freeze this program, but so far its tactics have not appeared effective. The bloody reforms in Syria and Libya will also get attention, as well as other countries from the Arab Spring which have yet to truly stabilize. While elections and reformations go on in these countries, the outside world leaders will quietly discuss their fate here in the U. S.

5. Protests

While all these intellectual policy discussions happen behind closed doors, Americans will stand outside and protest these meetings. The protesters will come out from across the country for a variety of reasons: anti-war, anti-Obama, anti-intervention, anti-Europe; occupiers and tea-partiers alike could show up for media attention. Already Chicago has seen a number of demonstrations and arrests. This kind of reaction to major international summits is not new: violence often breaks out wherever these events are held. This time, though, they are taking place in our own backyard and close to a heated election. Sparks could fly in Chicago.