A disturbing G7 decision

The March 24 decision
by seven major industrial countries (the G7) to suspend Russia from the
informal grouping called the G8 is not surprising in view of Russia’s
annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea. Specifically, the G7
announced in what it called the Hague Declaration — made on the
sidelines of the global Nuclear Security Summit — that it would not
attend the forthcoming G8 summit in Sochi and would instead meet as the
G7 in Brussels; it has also threatened

“co-ordinated sectoral sanctions”
if Moscow continues to “escalate this situation.” Russia has been a G8
participant since 1998, under a general plan to strengthen East-West
relations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had earlier shrugged
off the possibility of expulsion, pointing out that as the G8 has no
formal membership no country can be expelled from it; in addition, the
Ukrainian embassy in the Netherlands has reported Mr. Lavrov as saying
Russia had no intention of using military force in eastern and southern
Ukraine, and that if the situation worsens, Ukrainian-Russian contacts
will occur at the foreign ministry and defence ministry levels.

The G7 decision is, however, open to exploitation. To start with, the G7
has apparently accepted the appointment of many Ukrainian ministers
with neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic backgrounds. Secondly, NATO has asserted
that Russia plans a Crimea-type move for the autonomous Moldovan
territorial unit of Transnistria, where Russian is the official language
and the most widely used one; Moscow rejected a 2006 poll there showing
that 96 per cent of the population favoured joining Russia. NATO,
needless to say, has often tried to justify its own existence since the
Soviet Union collapsed; the Warsaw Treaty Organisation (the Warsaw Pact)
had a 2004 dissolution date, but NATO has no such limit. Western
militaries and arms manufacturers also stand to benefit from another
Cold War. Former British Chief of Staff Lord Dannatt has called for a
new brigade of 3,000 troops to be sent to Germany, while current plans
are to remove all 20,000 such troops from that deployment, which dates
from 1945. Given that European Union countries buy Russian oil and
natural gas for hard currency, anti-Russian sanctions mean that western
oil corporations will welcome British Prime Minister David Cameron’s
immediate call for more fracking, which is a highly controversial
activity in his country. Financial bodies, nevertheless, may not like
sanctions; Visa and MasterCard have resumed services to customers of
Russia’s SMP Bank. The G7 move, in sum, is less principled than it might
look, and western legislatures must scrutinise their respective
executives closely over their handling of the Ukraine crisis.
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