The G-8 will take up the issue Friday by calling on several multilateral lending institutions to help countries that have recently toppled long-standing autocracies avoid economic pitfalls that could undermine their evolution to democracy. The leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, whose people overthrew dictators this year, will attend Friday’s session.
The large pool of young, frustrated Arabs, short on political and economic opportunity for decades, has provided the energy behind the anti-government unrest, unfolding from Algeria through the Persian Gulf states.
But administration officials worry that weak economies will doom the revolutions before new governments take up long-demanded changes.
As the summit comes to a conclusion, the G-8 will ask the International Monetary Fund and several development banks to devise fiscal policies for Egypt and Tunisia so that their post-revolution period will not bring inflation, deficits and a sluggish economy.
G-8 members will also be called on to pledge financial help for those nations, as Obama did last week in proposing $2 billion in debt relief and loan guarantees for Egypt.
“Without economic modernization it will be very hard for governments trying to democratize to show people that democracy delivers,” David Lipton, the National Security Council’s senior director for international economic affairs, told reporters.
The summit at this wind-swept resort town brings Obama together with his key European allies, as well as with such strategic partners as Russia and Japan, at a moment he has described as “pivotal.” Lasting much of the past decade, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are entering new stages.
But Obama is also being asked to do more in Libya, a NATO-led operation to protect Libyan civilians rising up against leader Moammar Gaddafi. It is unclear, so far, if Obama is willing to commit more resources to the rebel cause.
In the morning, Obama held a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that focused on security and trade issues, including the planned U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe, a legacy of the George W. Bush administration that has been redesigned under Obama in an attempt, in part, to address enduring Russian complaints.
“We committed to working together so that we can find an approach and configuration that is consistent with the security needs of both countries,” Obama said after the meeting, with Medvedev sitting by his side.
The Russian president then told reporters that he and Obama can “lay the foundation for other politicians” but said he believes that the issue “will finally be solved in the future, like, for example, in the year 2020.”