March 24, 2014, 01:39 pm
G-7 kicks Russia out of club
By Justin Sink
President Obama and other G-7 leaders on Monday effectively suspended Russia’s membership in the group by announcing a June G-7 summit in Brussels that will replace the G-8 meeting Russia was to host in Sochi.
The decision was made at an emergency meeting of the G-7 in The Hague.
The move is a rebuke to Moscow for Russia’s annexation last week of Crimea, which had been a part of Ukraine. Russian forces kicked the Ukraine military out of the peninsula over the weekend.
In a joint statement, the G-7 countries said that the group was originally formed “because of shared beliefs and shared responsibilities.”
"Russia’s actions in recent weeks are not consistent with them. Under these circumstances, we will not participate in the planned Sochi Summit,” the countries said.
The group also said it remained “ready to intensify” sanctions against Russia, “including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy.”
“Our view is simply that as long as Russia is flagrantly violating international law and the order the G-7 has helped to build since the end of the Cold War, there’s no need for the G-7 to engage with Russia,” Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters ahead of the meeting on Monday.
“What Russia has done has been a violation of that entire international order built up over many decades,” he added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shrugged off the move, telling reporters in the Netherlands that his country was not concerned about its exclusion from the group.
“If our Western partners believe the format has exhausted itself, we don't cling to this format. We don't believe it will be a big problem if it doesn't convene,” Lavrov said, according to Reuters.
The G-7 includes Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, and was expanded to include Russia in the 1990s following the fall of the Soviet Union.
Western powers had hoped that inclusion in the group, which coordinates policy, would steer Russia toward economic and civil reforms.
Russia's move to annex Crimea — an ethnically Russian area on the border with Ukraine — has outraged Western powers, but the White House suggested Monday that the West would stop short of formally ending Russia's membership in the G-8.
Rhodes said the West did not want to foreclose on the opportunity to engage diplomatically with Russia in the coming months and years.
To that point, Secretary of State John Kerry and Lavrov were meeting separately on Monday to discuss Ukraine.
During that meeting, Kerry “expressed strong concern about the massing of a large number of Russian forces on the border and of the treatment of Ukrainian military forces, including many Ukrainian service members who are missing,” according to State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.
Kerry also reiterated that the U.S. was willing to escalate sanctions to target entire sectors of the Russian economy if Russia continued its aggression in the region. Obama announced an executive measure enabling the government to impose the bolder penalties last week, as he announced a new round of sanctions against associates of Putin and a bank favored by the Kremlin.
U.S. officials said they were heartened to see Lavrov meet with acting Ukrainian foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsia after his meeting with Kerry — the first high-level meeting between Kiev and Moscow since last month’s ouster of pro-Russian Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Earlier Monday, Obama told reporters Russia would “pay a price” for its aggression.
“Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian people,” Obama said. “We are united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far.”
Before landing in Amsterdam, Obama took questions from the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant about the crisis in Ukraine.
“In all my discussions with European leaders, my message will be that Russia needs to understand the economic and political consequences of its actions in Ukraine,” Obama told the paper, according to a translation by McClatchy. “We simply cannot have countries violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations. We cannot have countries purporting to annex parts of independent nations. The international law and principles at the heart of our international system have to mean something.”
The president also met Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and said he would raise the issue of Russia's incursion. China, a traditional ally of Moscow, has so far remained neutral in the dispute, and the Obama administration seemed hopeful the meeting would underscore Beijing's tacit disapproval.
Rhodes said that during the meeting, Obama urged Xi to continue voicing support for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, but did not ask the Chinese leader for any other specific action.
This story was updated at 4:22 p.m.