The G8 summit was touted as an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to showcase his country while giving the leaders of the industrialized world an opportunity to tackle issues such as energy security, nuclear proliferation and Africa.
But, with fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon intensifying, the Middle East may grab the spotlight.
American Foreign Policy Council Vice-President Ilan Berman told CTV's Newsnet that, before the crisis, he would have said the main issues would be Iran and North Korea -- and of somewhat lesser importance -- energy security for Europe.
"But what we are looking at now is this rapidly changing geopolitical dynamic in the Middle East, and it looks like the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon is going to be a much greater priority."
While the agendas are laid out well in advance, a sudden change in priorities is nothing new for these summits.
While the African debt problem and global warming was to be the focus of last year's summit in Scotland, the subway bombings in London overshadowed a shortened summit. While the leaders did agree on an aid package for Africa, they failed to make any progress on aggressively tackling global warming.
Former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy says that this G8 meeting is going to be a "hot box."
"Normally these events are pre-scripted and pre-digested with the communique already written (before the meeting even starts). But this time everything is up for grabs."
The Middle East, Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions and trade issues will all be on the agenda, says Axworthy.
The former Liberal cabinet minister believes the United States will have to reach out to Russia and Europe on these issues, as the formerly unilateral foreign policy pursued by the Bush administration has gotten his country bogged down in Iraq.
Russia in the spotlight
Russia is hosting the G8 for the first time and has defined the priorities for the annual summit.
While the G8 is supposedly comprised of the world's wealthiest industrial democracies, Russia was invited to join in 1998, not for its wealth, but as part of a strategy to prevent the former communist powerhouse from drifting out of the international mainstream as it struggled in the wake of the Cold War.
While Russia was an economic basketcase for much of the 1990s, its economy has grown strongly in recent years, thanks to its massive oil and gas deposits and skyrocketing energy prices.
But, while the Russian economy has improved, criticism has grown over human rights concerns, the Putin government's undermining of Russia's young democratic institutions and the use of the nation's vast energy resources as a cudgel in disputes with its neighbours.
Last winter, Western Europe was thrown into a panic after Russia cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine, leading to shortages in Europe.
However, Berman says Russian President Vladimir Putin has staked his political and economic capital in making sure the summit is a success.
"If you look at what he has been doing over the last week, he has been laying the diplomatic groundwork for telling the European powers and telling the United States that when they do meet in St. Petersburg that Russia is with them," Berman said.
Berman added that Putin has been seeking to assure the United States that "we may look different, but we have the same goals."
He said that Russia has played what he called a "schizophrenic role" in its dealings with Iran and North Korea.
"The Russians are now looking at a situation where if there is opportunity for the United States and for the other G8 leaders to begin putting serious pressure on Russia to choose, to make a decision about who it is standing with, you could really see a lot of movement when it comes to Russia on the Iran issue," he said.
"Russia is Iran's main strategic partner and it makes a lot of sense that Russia would want to avoid any type of diplomatic or economic action that would take a major client, a major trading partner, a major strategic partner off the table. But more and more you are seeing the kind of Iranian intransigence towards halting or slowing down nuclear ambitions beginning to change opinion in Moscow."