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Ukraine Updates: Russia Appears Closer to Defaulting on Foreign Debt


Credit…Pool photo by Patrick Semansky

International summits are usually highly scripted, and not meant to produce candid moments. But Group of 7 conferences have occasionally offered telling snapshots of the relationships among global leaders.

Last year, at the summit in Cornwall, Britain, the awkward contortions of pandemic life led to a photo in which G7 leaders were spaced apart on a platform, like a set of action figures.

For those nostalgic for the heyday of trans-Atlantic ties, there is the famous 2015 shot of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany facing President Barack Obama , both chatting with their arms spread wide in front of an alpine backdrop. The image inspired memes that transposed Ms. Merkel, in her pink suit, onto the image of Julie Andrews singing her heart out in the opening scene of “The Sound of Music.” Others were digitally altered to show them in a hot tub.

Ulrich Speck, a foreign-policy analyst in Berlin, said his favorite photograph showed President George W. Bush giving Ms. Merkel a neck rub. She did not appear thrilled.

“It encapsulates the way these leaders sometimes develop personal relationships,” Mr. Speck said.

An image that had particular resonance was Ms. Merkel’s face-off with President Donald J. Trump at the G7 summit in Canada in 2018 — a shot that encapsulated the “Trump against the world” feeling that had permeated international affairs.

Credit…Jesco Denzel/German Federal Government

Will this year’s G7 produce a memorable photo? Sudha David-Wilp, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, suspects that Ms. Merkel’s successor, Olaf Scholz, will be seeking a chance for a memento shot with President Biden.

Mr. Scholz is eager to promote an image of himself as the closest American ally in Europe, she said, at a time when he has come under pressure for Germany’s halting supply of weapons to Ukraine.

“Scholz will certainly seek out the picture with Biden, because Biden has had Scholz’s back since the beginning,” she said. They see eye to eye on not dragging NATO into the land war happening in Europe right now. So he will look for that balance.”

For Thorsten Benner, the director of the Global Public Policy Institute, the photo for the history books should include at least one of the G7’s guest nations. The German presidency of the G7 invited not only Ukraine, but also Argentina, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa to attend this year’s meetings.

It is part of Western leaders’ efforts to improve relations with the global south and foster broader ties in a network that was once seen as a rich nations’ club.

“We must avoid creating a division along the lines of ‘the West’ versus the rest,” Mr. Benner said. “We need that to be the iconic photo.”



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