Will the G7 Become the G8 Again with Russia’s Return?
The US President Donald Trump said he would support Russia rejoining the group of the world's major industrial nations, also known as the group of seven nations. German chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that Russia could not be readmitted into the G7 because of the Kremlin's aggression in Ukraine and the use of a chemical weapon in Britain. In 2014, the US and other nations kicked Russia out of the then known G8 after the Kremlin annexed Ukraine's Crimea and began its military intervention in Donbas. To talk more about the upcoming G7 summit, we are joined in the studio by Yuliia Osmolovska, international politics expert and executive director of the Institute of Negotiations
On August 20, President Donald Trump has expressed his support for reinstating Russia in the group of G7 making it back a G8. What’s the purpose? What’s the aim of showing support to Russia, an open aggressor country?
Well, I wouldn’t call it showing support to Russia in this case. I would call it Donald Trump’s vision on how to engage Russia in dialogue on the most acute international issues. And this was the core argument that he actually offered as support of the very idea of getting Russia involved back into the meetings of G8. He also claims that the main reason for Russia being excluded off the club — he was not comparing, but actually he said that it was because of personal offense that his predecessor, Mr. Obama felt against Russian President, and it was a sort of revenge, or some compensation for these sour feelings, that the former President of United States felt. However, the official reason — and we can also reconfirm it from the statement of other members of the club, of G7 — was that Russia brutally breached the international law and annexed Crimea illegally, and for all its efforts in supporting the rebel groups in Eastern Ukraine Russia was actually excluded from the club. And the general assessment of those who claim to be devoters of the international rule of law is quite justifiable because the core reason hasn’t been eliminated yet, Russia hasn’t given the Crimea back to Ukraine.
Well, that’s exactly what the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said. His response was that Russia may return to the G7 only after the aggression against Ukraine stops. And here I have a quote by him that he posted on his Facebook page. He said: “The return of occupied Crimea, the cessation of military operations in Donbas and the release of more than 100 political prisoners and Ukrainian sailors held by the Kremlin will be a real serious signal to the world that Russia is ready to take its place on the agenda of high diplomacy again.” So this is basically just a confirmation of what you’ve just said. However, President Zelensky is not the only one who has expressed this point of view. There are also Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He [Macron] said that “I think, to say that without any conditions Russia can return to the table, would be signing off the weakness of the G7.” Would you agree?
I would, definitely. And especially taking into consideration the recent case of returning Russia to the Council of Europe. Actually, Russia hasn’t liquidated all the critics and the reason for excluding from the Parliamentary Assembly, and so it was returned back successfully. Therefore there is a high risk that the same move could be taken within the G7 club. However, we know already by the time that a number of countries, who are the members of the club have expressed already explicitly their disagreement with the unconditional return of Russia to G7. Therefore, I think that the prospects of actual rejoining Russia and enlarging the club into 8 members — they are quite vague for the time being.
Nevertheless, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is against Russia being reinstated in the G7 club, and then there is also Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and then there is Emmanuel Macron, — but there is also President Trump. If it comes to the standoff, what could be the result of that?
I think that there could be one quite wise move – to join two polarized views on Russia’s presence at the G7 meeting. Because Trump wants to discuss issues of major concern with Russia, and there is a principal disagreement on the absence of the grounds for Russia to come back because the reasons for its exclusion haven’t been eliminated. But nothing would prevent Mr. Trump as the President of the hosting country for G7 next year, to invite Russia for consultations. This could be a format 7+1. And this doesn’t mean that Russia could be returned into the club, with all the rights that it might have, but a sort of consultations on issues, and it could be a sort of questioning on what Russia has done so far with regards to Ukraine’s conflict. So this could be a very good platform to talk to Russia for all the leaders of major states in the world, to actually question it on these issues. So it depends on how the parties would frame this very initiative. One side could be seeing it as a sort of unconditional return of Russia to G7 club (and making it a G8 club), but the others would see it as an opportunity to have this frank discussion and to question Russia on a lot of issues with regards to Ukraine’s destiny. So I think this could be like a double-sided process.
With the possibility of Russia being reinstated in the G7 club, how should Ukraine behave? What should Ukraine do and how should the Ukrainian government react to this possibility?
Well, Ukraine’s government has reacted quite reasonably so far. I mean, the open statement of our President and needed references to all the issues that actually caused Russia’s exclusion. And the first move that I’ve observed from our President is the talks with Boris Johnson, the talks with the President of European Union Donald Tusk in the forthcoming days. Also possible telephone talks with Angela Merkel and the leader of Canada. So all these countries — we call it like ‘channel diplomacy.’ He could approach each of the members of the G7 club bilaterally and talk about this issue. And moreover, we have the mentioned — quite strong — arguments for our position. Russia was excluded because of the annexation of Crimea. So how could you get it back without…
..without the Crimea being brought back to Ukraine?
Yes. So just to make the whole process obsolete. You need to be consistent with your position — at least in this case. So, I think there are grounds for our President to be very firm in his approach. On the other hand — we are not a member of G7. So this is the issue that should be decided within the G7 countries, and the position of Japan, for instance, which is leaning to consider the issues — so it’s not something to say ‘let’s get Russia back’, but this is something where Japan is ready to open the dialogue, to consider this option. So, a lot will depend on how the general balance within the G7 countries will be found eventually. However, I’m pretty committed that for Germany, where the international rule of law, order, is one of the utmost priorities in international affairs, I think they will be quite persistent with their position that there are NO obvious reasons for Russia to come back. It’s quite early, for Russia hasn’t reciprocated in different actions.
My last question would be: what should we expect from the upcoming G7 summit?
Interesting. I think that this issue would be discussed, but I don’t think that giving the sensitivity of this issue, we would be hearing a lot of public discussions among the countries about the issue. G7 always meets to discuss the most acute issues in international affairs, economic affairs. But bear in mind that they could come up with a joint statement when there is a consensus on almost all issues they discuss, or they just make some sort of statement on behalf of each country with regard to this meeting. We do remember that at one of the previous G7 meetings Donald Trump hasn’t signed the joint declaration. So I would hope that this time he won’t repeat the same story and at least G7 would demonstrate some sort of coherency, a sort of understanding and consensus among the most burning issues of foreign affairs.