No place for Russian Federation in G-7

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at the Fort de Bregancon on August 19.. Photo: RFE/RL

Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.

On the eve of the G-7 summit, which was held in Biarritz, France, August 24-26, U.S. President Donald Trump once again called for Russia to be readmitted to the group of industrialized countries from which it was expelled in 2014 due to the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of the Donbas in Ukraine.

“I’ve gone to numerous G-7 meetings, and I guess President Obama, because Putin outsmarted him, President Obama thought it wasn’t a good thing to have Russia in so he wanted Russia out. I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in and it should be the G-8,” he said.

But just as he was rebuffed last year when he made a similar proposal prior to the summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, Trump was shot down again by other G-7 leaders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacted almost immediately, noting that Russia was excluded after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea and then initiated the rebellion in the Donbas. Johnson also referred to “Russia’s provocative actions against the West”, citing the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England last year.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who had earlier told Russian President Vladimir Putin that there will be no readmission of Russia into the G-7 as long as the Ukrainian crisis continues, had to set the record straight after Trump tried to put his own spin on talks in an effort to show that he and Macron had agreed that they both wanted to invite Russia to the G-7.

Macron said that he simply took note of the “U.S. desire to reintegrate Russia into the G-7 next year” when the U.S. holds the chairmanship, but reaffirmed his country’s condition of ending the crisis in Ukraine still stood and that reinstating Russia to the G-8 without any preconditions would be a sign of weakness.

Our own Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland put it quite succinctly.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, August 22, Freeland said Canada’s position on Russia’s participation in the G-7 is “very clear.”

“Russia’s violation of international law in invading Crimea and annexing it, in continuing to support war in the Donbas, is something we cannot allow to stand,” Freeland said, adding that if Moscow wants to rejoin the international delegation, it must end the war in the Donbas and leave Crimea.

If those conditions are met, “I think all of us would be delighted to welcome a Russia which sought again to be a member in good standing of our like-minded group of countries,” she said.

But even if by some miracle Russia decided to leave Crimea and stop the war in the Donbas, that country’s readmission to the G-7 would remain problematic.

For one thing, the G-7 was created as a forum of the world’s seven most advanced economies as defined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Russian Federation does not qualify today and did not qualify in 1998, when the G-7 was expanded to the G-8 in order to include Russia. But the rules were bent a bit because the G-7 wanted to give the Russian Federation a carrot in order to continue with Boris Yeltsin’s attempted economic and democratic reforms. While Yeltsin did make a little, and we stress the word little, effort to reform his country, he at least tried. Putin has completely reversed that process, creating instead a political dictatorship and an economic kleptocracy run like the Mafia with himself as the Capo di tutti i capi (Boss of all the bosses).

What’s more, the G-7 has now advanced from a mostly economic forum, to one which now espouses strict adherence to democratic values.

This was clear in the statement adopted by last year’s summit in Canada.

“We, the Leaders of the G-7, share common democratic values that are central to the development of free, open, well-governed, pluralistic and prosperous societies and recognize that equality is a core component of democracy. These democratic values are essential for generating broad-based economic growth that benefits everyone, creates quality jobs and ensures opportunities for all.

“Democracy and the rules-based international order are increasingly being challenged by authoritarianism and the defiance of international norms. In particular, foreign actors seek to undermine our democratic societies and institutions, our electoral processes, our sovereignty and our security. These malicious, multi-faceted and ever-evolving tactics constitute a serious strategic threat which we commit to confront together, working with other governments that share our democratic values. Defending democracy will require us to adopt a strategic approach that is consistent with universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, our international commitments to peace and security, and that promotes equality,” it states.

Under no circumstances can the Russian Federation ever be considered to “share common democratic values” with the West. What’s more, the reference to “foreign actors (who) seek to undermine our democratic societies and institutions, our electoral processes, our sovereignty and our security (with) malicious, multi-faceted and ever-evolving tactics”, applies most fittingly to the Russian Federation.

Unfortunately, the bid to readmit Russia to the G-7 may come up again next year. That’s because the rotating Presidency of the G-7 goes to the United States and Donald Trump. Most likely he will once again bring this issue up and this time, the agenda will be in his hands. If that’s the case those G-7 members who oppose the Russian Federation’s re-entry must stick to their guns. Under no circumstances can the Russian Federation be considered for membership in the G-7. And any suggestion that it should be readmitted is totally absurd.