This year’s G7 minus Russia concluded with a whimper. The world’s strongest economies met in Brussels, had a nice dinner and photo-ops, warned Putin about eastern Ukraine, and failed to put Crimea on the menu. Initially the summit was scheduled to be held in the Russian Black Sea resort town, Sochi. The venue was changed after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. British Prime Minister David Cameron said in late March, “We should be clear that there’s not going to be a G8 summit in Russia.” At the same time, the G7 leaders issued a statement saying, “international law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force.”
If this is the case, this G7 meeting has circumvented what motivated its leaders to expel Russia from G8. During a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in France after the G7 summit wrapped up, Cameron articulated “very clear and firm set of messages” vis-à-vis the Ukraine crisis. In fact, the British leader just echoed what President Obama had said earlier at a press briefing in Brussels: recognition of Ukraine’s new President-elect, stopping the flow of weapons across the Ukrainian border and ceasing support for pro-Russian separatists.
Surprisingly, there has been no outcry over Crimea from the G7 leaders before. The G7 Brussels summit joint declaration mentions Crimea in a lackluster way, “Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and actions to de-stabilize Eastern Ukraine are unacceptable and must stop.” In other words, Crimea will remain under Russian occupation.
The European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said, “This democratic club [G7] of the most developed countries today does not accept the Russia of Vladimir Putin.” Unfortunately, this denunciation lacks momentum when the same elite club does not make a concerted stance against Russia for its actions in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine. Although western diplomacy has saved eastern Ukraine from disintegrating, overlooking the Crimean issue torpedoes such efforts. The G7 summit needs to address Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Conventional wisdom says there will be no war between NATO and Russia. Nevertheless, constant pressure should be applied so that Putin gets the message that the world disapproves of his intervention in Crimea. As the global voice over Crimea wanes, Putin interprets this as a tacit sanction. Perhaps this explains why the stern-faced, unsmiling Vladimir Putin wished his G7 counterparts “Bon appétit.”