President Trump said the Russian Federation should rejoin the G7. Nope. Here’s why.
The G7 group was first formed as the Group of Six (G6) after the Arab oil embargo (1974), and included: France, West Germany, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Italy. Canada was added the next year and they became the Group of Seven (G7). Their purpose morphed into coordinating the large industrial nation’s reactions to global issues after the embargo faded.
In 1997, Russia joined even though they were only the 14th largest economy at the time. Economies such as Brazil, India, Australia, and South Korea were larger.
Fast forward to 2014 and the Russians invaded eastern Ukraine and further annexed their Crimean region, which had a population of 2.4 million (vs. 1.85 million in West Virginia), situated in an area half the size our land mass (10,425 square miles versus our 24,087).
Because of the invasion, Russia was suspended from the G8 (2014), and then they permanently withdrew in 2017.
Now, back to 1999, the Group of Twenty (G20) was formed consisting of 19 countries and the European Union, including all the original G7 plus Russia. In 2009, they announced they would replace the G7 as the main economic council. But the G7 retained its relevance as a “steering group for the West.”
Around the time of Russia’s 2014 suspension with the focus of Crimea, Vladimir Putin claimed Crimea has always belonged to Russia, and he does have something of an argument there. Catherine the Great first annexed Crimea is 1783. Then the Russians lost it to the French, British and Ottoman Empire among others, in the Crimean War (1853-1856).
More recently (1921), Crimea joined the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, first as part of Russia and then was transferred to Ukraine by the Soviets (1954).
Putin argues Russia did not give up Crimea, rather the Soviets confiscated it. In 2014, after Russia sent unmarked troops into Crimea, a popular vote was taken resulting in public approval to rejoin Russia. Of course, no international monitors were allowed, except Russian ones. Although most see the vote as a sham, Russians see it as Crimea regaining its rightful place.
James Dobbins of the RAND Corporation disagrees. Dobbins was U.S. Ambassador to the European Union under George H. W. Bush, had a stint as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs in 2001 under George W. Bush and was Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan for two years under Barack Obama.
Dobbins says the decision to admit Russia was clearly aspirational and, for a while, held promise. But reforms didn’t work.
Besides, Russia is not one of the world’s largest economies. India and Brazil are larger and are market democracies, where Russia depends on crony capitalism.
Finally, if raw power and influence were the criteria, then China should be next. If democracy and an open economy are the measures, then India should join.
Besides, there is credible evidence of Russian interference in our 2016 election. And according to the National Security Strategy assessment signed by President Trump in 2017, “Russia aims to weaken U.S. influence in the world and divide us from our allies and partners. Russia views the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union (EU) as threats. Russia is investing in new military capabilities, including nuclear systems that remain the most significant existential threat to the United States, and in destabilizing cyber capabilities … Russia interferes in the domestic political affairs of countries around the world. The combination of Russian ambition and growing military capabilities creates an unstable frontier in Eurasia, where the risk of conflict due to Russian miscalculation is growing.”
Should the Russia be added to the G7 ahead of Brazil, India, Australia, or South Korea? No. After all, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin didn’t invite Nazi Germany to their World War II summits. So, why is President Trump promoting Russia even after he signed the National Security Strategy assessment showing them as our adversary? No one knows. Perhaps we will one day.