Removing Russia from the G8

Russian President Vladimir Putin has always been somewhat unpredictable, seldom taking the course that other world leaders would deem only logical.  His recent decision to intervene in Crimea and ultimately annex the region therefore, considering the nature of moves that Putin has made in the past, should have come as no surprise.  Nevertheless, the brazen act was hard to fathom for many leaders who have come to expect their counterparts, however eccentric, to play within the bounds of certain rules.

Although Putin largely ignored early repercussions, including U.S. sanctions against his inner circle growing in number and severity, the annexation of Crimea is beginning to draw more serious diplomatic responses.  The most notable action, taken by the United States and her most powerful allies, was the ejection of Russia from the G8 (now referred to as the G7).

The G8, a group of industrial powers that met regularly to discuss the future of economic issues, does not technically have authority.  It is a subset of the nations that compromise the G20, the more inclusive group that seeks cooperation between nations on economic policies.  Therefore, exclusion from the G8 does not entirely prevent Russia from influencing the matters that it discusses; nevertheless, it will have a significant impact.

Most immediately, removing Russia from the G8 serves as a diplomatic way of protesting Putin’s recent actions.  Although it will not have immediate effects on the Russian economy, ejection from the G8 has importance in its symbolic meaning.  It illustrates that the remaining G7 nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan) condemn the military-aided annexation of Crimea and will not support such a violation of the expectations for international conduct.  Furthermore, it distances Putin from other leaders and suggests (as his actions already have) that he should not be a representative in a group focused on cooperation between countries.

The decision to remove Russia from future meetings also reinforces the recent approach that the Obama administration has been taking to many international issues, emphasizing long-term, diplomatic consequences over threats of immediate action or military intervention.  While the Russian government has downplayed exclusion by the G7, it has undoubtedly lost valuable opportunities to voice its stance on economic issues at a time when the ruble is already suffering.  Losing influence in economic matters will only further complicate the challenges that Russia is currently facing.

The G7 has left Russia’s reentry into the group on the table, although only by stopping short of explicitly denying that possibility.  In reality, Russia will likely remain alienated from many Western powers for the foreseeable future.  Trust has broken down on both sides of the relationship.  The United States and her allies have grown weary of Russia’s unpredictable actions and disregard for diplomacy, while Putin continues to reference past injustices that he feels the West has committed against Russia.

The Russian stance on relations with the West could lead to a significant drawback when it comes to the G7 suspending Russia.  Putin, a former KGB officer, is largely a product of the Cold War; he feels that his country was slighted by the West and, unfortunately, many Russians agree.  The G7 did not become the G8 (by including Russia) until as recently as 1998; although the Cold War had ended and the Soviet Union had become the Russian Federation, it was excluded from G7 negotiations for a number of years.  This is one of many Western actions that Russians have viewed as an insult, and the re-formation of the G7 reminds many of their anger over such issues.

In this way, Russia’s exclusion could stir feelings of nationalism and bitterness toward the West, helping to justify the the annexation of Crimea (which was separated from Russia when the Soviet Union was dissolved).  Nevertheless, American focus must remain on the long term.  Despite its possible downside, the diplomatic action taken against Russia remains highly preferable to a military response; it will simply require more time to be effective.  Eventually, Russia will recognize its need (particularly economically) to work with other nations.  The resentment that has recently boiled over will be overcome by necessity and present the opportunity for new, diplomatic relations to be formed.  Ultimately, the time required for exclusion from the G8 and other sanctions to take effect will be worthwhile, resulting in stronger and more stable relations with Russia in the future.

Source:

Acosta, Jim, and Victoria Eastwood. “U.S., Other Powers Kick Russia out of G8.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 24 Mar. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/24/politics/obama-europe-trip/>.

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  13. I do think we should proceed harshly in dealings with Russia. Putin thinks he doesn’t have to abide by any diplomatic rules and can make decisions unilaterally, and we need to show him our strength. It’s true that our actions may rally support for more Russian nationalism, but more sanctions would cripple their economy. In today’s age of information, I don’t think all of Russia’s people can be kept in the dark about what’s going on here.

  14. This whole situation really seems so strange. While other developed countries have taken questionable actions in the past concerning international law (like the US invading Iraq), Russia’s actions were just such a flagrant violation of all international standards that it really seems surreal. Given the seriousness of these transgressions, I don’t know if merely diplomatic measures will be enough to reverse Putin’s mind any time soon. We can only hope that as these measures take their long term effects, Putin will eventually desire and need more acceptance from the international community.

  15. I do believe that there should be some kind of sanctions towards Russia by the United States or allies. However, I don’t think that kicking them out of groups like the G8 is the best way. Russians, not just President Putin, feel like the west gangs up against them, which is true to an extent. Pushing the nation around like this doesn’t help the situation and only hinders people’s views of the west and gives the Kremlin more control. In addition, the annexation was voted on by the people of Crimea and then pursued. Eastern Europe is in the sphere of influence of Russia and as they are the hegemon there, they do have a certain ability to do as they please. The bigger issue here is the morality aspect of Russia annexing Crimea and the ethicality of America being the world’s policeman which many people dislike.

  16. I agree with what you said up until the point about Russia eventually needing to work with other nations. And while I do agree that that is true, it would be hard not to, I do not think that it will play out in a way that is going to benefit the rest of the G7. I feel that Russia will view this removal as more than a small slight and further down the road it will come back to both sides of the argument with a vengeance. However, I believe that the US and the rest of the world powers had to do something. Russia should not have been allowed to just annex Crimea without some sort of black-lash and I view this as the most peaceful and smallest reaction the rest of the world could have taken. To be honest, it would not surprise me if Russia didn’t just go communist again and then make friends with China.

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