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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Look at G8 Leaders' Strategies for the Summit

ReutersGerman mounted police patrolling a security fence surrounding the venue for the G8 summit in Heiligendamm.
Germany's Angela Merkel wants to tackle global warming. Britain's Tony Blair seeks help for Africa. U.S. President George W. Bush wants to change the subject from Iraq to areas where allied cooperation is possible.

All these hopes for the Group of Eight summit could fall victim to rising tensions with Russia, which is unhappy over U.S. plans to put an anti-missile system in its backyard.

Following is a look at the strategies the G8 leaders will be pursuing from Wednesday to Friday at the summit in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm, Germany.

Russia

President Vladimir Putin, who was last year's host for the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, is making no secret of his unhappiness over U.S. missile defense plans. In pre-summit interviews, he warned that Moscow could take retaliatory steps if Washington proceeds with plans to place a radar system in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland. He suggested the retaliation could take the form of retargeting Russian missiles at Europe.

Putin arrives at the summit with sky-high approval ratings. A recent poll of Russian voters showed that 63 percent of those surveyed would vote for him again -- even though he is barred by the Constitution from another term.

In interviews, Putin responded to reporters' questions about a Kremlin crackdown on domestic critics by detailing what he said were widespread human rights abuses in other G8 countries.

United States

Bush is hoping to use his seventh G8 summit to heal relations frayed by the Iraq war by emphasizing areas where his administration and U.S. allies can agree. He spent the days before the summit rolling out several initiatives designed to appeal to foreign critics.

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, speaking to reporters on Air Force One as Bush flew to Europe on Monday, said the Bush administration wanted to have a "constructive dialogue" with Russia at the summit and did not believe Moscow's recent "escalation in the rhetoric" was helpful in that goal. Bush and Putin are scheduled to meet one-on-one in Heiligendamm. They will have more extensive talks during a Putin visit to Bush's family vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 1 and 2.

Under international pressure to take action against global warming, Bush has proposed that the United States and 14 other big polluters spend the next 18 months deciding on a long-term global goal for cutting the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. While representing a significant change of course for the administration, the Bush plan does not go as far as one supported by Germany and other G8 nations that would set stringent new emissions limits.

Like last year, Bush will go to the summit with some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. A recent AP-Ipsos poll showed that 35 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling his job.

Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who at her first G8 summit in St. Petersburg last year got an unexpected shoulder rub from Bush, has put global warming high on the agenda for this year's summit. She offered muted praise for Bush's new plan, calling it "common ground on which to act." Her proposal, backed by other G8 nations, goes much further, however. It calls for limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century and cutting global greenhouse emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Merkel is riding a crest of voter popularity, helped by a rebound in the German economy, Europe's largest, after a long period of stagnation.

Following past practices, Merkel has invited key developing countries -- China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa -- to attend a portion of the meetings and also opened part of the discussions to several African nations, hoping to build on the commitments the G8 made on African aid in 2005.

As at past summits, security is a major concern with violent clashes with police occurring even before world leaders began arriving for the sessions, to be held behind a security fence.

Britain

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who will leave office after a decade in power on June 27, is hoping to use his final G8 summit to bolster one of his signature international achievements, gaining pledges from wealthy nations to double support for Africa.

Derided by critics as "Bush's poodle," Blair's image was not helped at last year's summit when an open microphone picked up Bush's greeting of "Yo, Blair," in an exchange seen as underscoring the British leader's junior-partner status in the relationship.

While the G8 countries have lagged in the goal they set at the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 to double aid to Africa, Blair's aides expressed hope that the pace of pledges would quicken.

Blair is expected to support any G8 moves to toughen sanctions against Sudan and will likely press Putin for more help in curbing Iran's nuclear program and providing support for the Middle East peace process.

Relations between Britain and Russia have been strained by the poisoning death in London of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko.

Blair's spokesman said Monday that Putin's warning about the U.S. missile defense shield would not push climate change or Africa off the agenda.

France

President Nicolas Sarkozy will be attending his first G8 summit, after having won election to succeed Jacques Chirac on May 6. He won with a campaign platform that pledged to pull the sluggish French economy out of the doldrums, in part by engendering a work ethic and making the country more globalization-friendly. While polls put Sarkozy's approval rating at 65 percent, the rival Socialist Party warns that his pro-market policies will be an assault on cherished social protections such as the 35-hour workweek.

Sarkozy, who will hold his first one-on-one talks as president with Putin at the summit, said Monday that he would have a "frank discussion" with Putin about the warning that Russia could aim missiles at Europe.

Sarkozy earlier promised to confront Putin about human rights violations in Chechnya and about the slaying in October of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

On climate change, Sarkozy, after his election, said in a phone call with Bush that the United States has the duty to take the lead on the issue because "the fate of humanity is at stake."

Sarkozy is also expected to push for deeper cooperation with Africa in part to curb the flow of illegal immigrants into France.

Japan

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also a newcomer at this year's summit, goes into the meeting politically wounded by a series of money scandals that culminated May 28 with the suicide of his agriculture minister.

Support for Abe has plummeted to its lowest level since he took office in September, succeeding the highly popular Junichiro Koizumi. Embarrassing losses in crucial July elections for the upper house of the parliament could prompt Abe's ruling party to seek his ouster as prime minister.

Abe and Putin are due to meet on the sidelines of the summit, and Putin said in pre-summit interviews that he looked forward to discussing with him a dispute over four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan. Russia captured the four islands at the southern end of the Kuril chain -- known as the Northern Territories in Japan -- from Japan during the closing days of World War II.

Abe has made climate change a summit priority, recently releasing a plan that calls for a 50 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Japan will also push for a conclusion to the Doha Round of global trade talks and greater efforts to deal with the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

Italy

Prime Minister Romano Prodi, leading a center-left government, celebrated his first year in office in May, but published opinion polls have shown a decline in his approval ratings, mainly due to bickering inside his coalition and tough economic measures that he has put in place to revive Italy's economy. Opinion polls indicate that should an election be held now, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservatives would win.

Stefano Sannino, Prodi's top diplomatic aide, said Monday that on climate change, Italy did not expect the G8 to agree to binding targets for emission reduction but rather to a general negotiating framework that he said would be "a step forward from the past."

Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who ended nearly 13 years of Liberal Party rule in January 2006, has not fared well with voters during his initial time in office. Polls show his approval rating at 33 percent, down seven points in two months. His government is facing allegations of torture of Afghan detainees handed over by Canadians to Afghan authorities.

Last month, Harper's government announced that Canada would not meet its commitments under the Kyoto climate change agreement but that it planned to side with European governments at the G8 summit in endorsing a call for setting targets for reducing greenhouse gases.

AP, MT