Guest commentary: G-7 nations could improve world with 1 percent of GDP | Guest Columns | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

The Group of Seven reconvened June 11 for the first time since 2018. Its members represent the most powerful block of liberal democracies in the world. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States have half of the world’s wealth but a 10th of the world’s population. The statements released by the G-7 emphasized the importance of democracies as the best method of governance.

The members of the G-7, with the exception of the United States, are notable for their commitment to social systems that rely on strong government support. This includes a comprehensive welfare state and multi-level collective bargaining based on the economic foundations of free market capitalism.

Each of these countries has a unionized workforce with many employed in the public sector. This includes health care and higher education, as well as some utility, rail transport and airline companies.

This support for the general welfare is complemented by a rational approach to defense spending. None other than the United States has a defense budget exceeding 2 percent of gross domestic product. The U.S. defense spending fuels an ongoing engagement in military interventions around the world. But it doesn’t reflect a systematic evaluation of likely threats.

The G-7’s commitment to liberal democracy represents a sharp alternative to China, Russia, Iran and North Korea (CRINK). The CRINK countries have long traditions of nationalism that allow the rule by autocracies with a pretense of being republics. They have less than half the wealth of the G-7, yet have an outsize influence on world affairs.

China through its Belt and Road Initiative has established infrastructure footholds throughout the world. Russia and Iran continue to support terrorist programs that systematically undermine other countries, including the United States and the Middle East.

The CRINK remain committed to disrupting the G-7 and all other democracies, both with political interference and continuing cyber warfare on a grand scale. The use of social media by Russia, China and Iran to undermine elections is well documented.

Most recently, cyber warfare by Russian criminals has resulted in disruption of the food and fuel supplies in the United States. Parallel attacks have disrupted health care systems throughout the G-7. Even private companies are regularly subjected to ransomware attacks.

The return of the United States to leadership of the G-7 and NATO means a united front against the attacks by the CRINK will be reestablished. This represents an important step in supporting liberal democracies against dangerous nationalistic isolationism that threatens world peace and prosperity. These steps are defensive measures against terrorism and cyberattacks.

A more positive approach would be for the G-7 countries to devote the equivalent of half their defense budgets to international development. If each gave 1 percent of GDP, the resulting fund would receive $400 billion dollars annually for development. This commitment on an international scale would address worldwide malnutrition, collapsing infrastructure and skyrocketing unemployment. The result would be a new era of peace and prosperity as occurred in Europe and Japan after World War II.

Dan Freeman lives in Galveston.

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