G7 Leaders Divided Over Russia’s Readmission
The future reintegration of Russia into the elite G7 group of the world’s rich nations has proved an explosive issue at a summit in France, with leaders divided over whether to allow Moscow back in after its 2014 expulsion.
Russia was kicked out of what was then the Group of Eight (G8) as Moscow was holding its presidency after it annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, a move never recognised by the international community.
But US President Donald Trump, who will host the next Group of Seven summit in 2020, has spoken out in favour of readmitting Russia.
And the host of this year’s event, French President Emmanuel Macron, has also said it would be appropriate to include Russia if key conditions were met.
However Britain, whose ties with Russia hit a new low following the 2018 chemical poisoning on its territory of Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal which London blamed on the Kremlin, has spoken out against Moscow’s readmittance.
The issue came to a head during lengthy discussions at the leaders’ first official G7 dinner on Saturday, where the premiers and heads of state — also including Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada — put forward “forthright” positions on the issue, said a source close to the discussions, asking not to be named.
“You did very well last night President Macron,” Johnson told his French host on Sunday as the leaders met for a session to discuss the world economy. “That was a difficult one.”
Sources later confirmed that Johnson had been referring to Macron’s stewardship of the dinner in the debate over Russia as the leaders pushed their “strong” views on the matter.
Diplomatic sources said the leaders agreed to be in favour of reinforcing coordination with Russia, but that it was too early for reintegration.
“I think it’s advantageous (for Russia to rejoin) but other people don’t necessarily agree with me at this time,” said Trump as the G7 wound up on Monday. “We will see what happens.”
Macron had said in the run-up to the summit that it would be “appropriate” for Russia to rejoin the group and less than a week before the event held several hours of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his summer residence.
But Macron said first a solution had to be found for Ukraine, where in addition to the annexation of Crimea, pro-Moscow separatists declared unrecognised breakaway statelets in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who shares Britain’s wariness about Russia rejoining the group, said herself, Macron, Putin and new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would soon meet in a bid to relaunch the peace process.
‘Is Russia on that path?’
Moscow joined the group in 1998 — when the G7 became the G8 — under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin as the West tried to anchor post-Soviet Russia into the international community.
But tensions intensified throughout Putin’s ascendancy in Russia and he skipped a 2012 G8 summit hosted by the United States shortly after he was re-elected president following a stint as prime minister.
Ironically, Russia held the G8 presidency in 2014 but a planned summit in June of that year in the Black Sea resort of Sochi never took place as it was expelled from the group. The other seven countries instead met in Brussels.
Like Britain, Canada also strongly opposes readmitting Russia unless seized Ukrainian territory is handed back.
EU Council President Donald Tusk meanwhile said that “under no condition” could he accept the logic that the status quo in Ukraine be accepted and Russia return to the G8.
“The reasons why Russia was disinvited in 2014 are still valid,” said Tusk.
“When Russia was invited to the G7 for the first time (under Yeltsin) it was believed that it would pursue the path of liberal democracy, rule of law and human rights.
“Is there anyone among us, who can say out of full conviction, not out of business calculation, that Russia is on that path?” Tusk asked, retorting it should be Zelensky, not Putin, who is invited to the next G7.