August 23, 2019

Keep the G-7 as the G-7


This past week, President Donald Trump caused quite a stir when he suggested that Russia should be readmitted to the Group of Seven. “I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “I could certainly see it being the G-8 again.” He added, “If somebody would make that motion, I would certainly be disposed to think about it very favorably.”

Thankfully, the reaction to his August 20 comments was not supportive.

The first international response we saw reported in the media came from French President Emmanuel Macron, who said: “I think to say that without any conditions Russia can return to the table would be signing off the weakness of the G-7.” He underscored, “It would be a strategic error for us and the consecration of this age of impunity,” and he went on to say that “The indispensable precondition is that a solution is found concerning Ukraine.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in, saying there had not been “sufficient progress” on the Ukraine issue and therefore she is against readmitting Russia. Speaking at a news conference alongside her, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson elaborated: “…given what happened in Salisbury in Wiltshire, given the use of chemical weapons on British soil, given the continuing instability, civil war, the war in Ukraine, given Russia’s provocations, not just in Ukraine but many other places, I must say I am very much with Chancellor Merkel in thinking that the case has yet to be made out for Russia to return to the G-7.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted on Facebook: “Since March 2014, when Russia was suspended from the G-8 nothing has changed. The Ukrainian Crimea is still occupied, the Ukrainian Donbas is still suffering from the war.
Returning Ukraine’s occupied Crimea, cessation of hostilities in the Donbas and releasing over 100 political prisoners and Ukrainian sailors that Kremlin currently holds would signal the world that Russia can be allowed back to its place at the top table of global diplomacy.”

Here in the U.S., the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America was crystal clear in its response. “Russia does not belong in the G-7” was the headline on its official statement. “Until the Russian Federation ceases its actions in Ukraine, and removes itself from all internationally recognized Ukrainian territory, Russia must remain suspended from membership in the group of the world’s largest advanced economies, as its actions in Ukraine contravene the principles and values on which the G-7 operates,” UCCA President Andriy Futey emphasized.

Readers will recall that Russia was expelled from the group of the world’s leading industrialized countries, then known as the G-8, precisely because it invaded and then annexed Ukraine’s Crimea. And, as we all know, Russia next proceeded to foment, supply and direct a “separatist” movement in Ukraine’s eastern regions. Mr. Macron put it this way: “The divorce was enacted when Ukraine was invaded.”

Also worth remembering is that this is not the first time President Trump called for Russia’s readmission to the group. In June 2018, he said: “Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run… They should let Russia come back in.”

The idea was wrong then, and it’s still wrong today. It would be a travesty of justice if Russia were allowed back into the circle of the world’s major players as long as it continues on its aggressive and destructive course whose goal is nothing less than upending the international order. President Macron, who is presiding at this weekend’s annual G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, is on record as saying that his aim is to reinforce multilateralism and international support for the rule of law. If that is indeed the case, the G-7 must remain the G-7.