Photo credit to patdollard.com
Russia has been suspended from the prestigious Group of 8 (G-8) for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.
Meeting in a smaller G-7 format, the group, which consists of the top industrialized democracies, including Japan, France, and the U.S., issued a joint statement called the Hague Declaration. "Today," the statement read, "we reaffirm that Russia's actions will have significant consequences. This clear violation of international law is a serious challenge to the rule of law around the world and should be a concern for all nations." They go further, declaring their support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and threatening Russia with incrementally harsher economic sanctions if they allow the situation to escalate.
With sanctions underway and Russia kicked out of the G-8, it seems that the West is fairly united in the face of the Russian Bear. But Russia does not seem dismayed. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed their ouster as unimportant, saying Russia was "not attached to this format [G-8] and we don't see a great misfortune if it will not gather. Maybe, for a year or two, it will be an experiment for us to see how we live without it."
In truth, the gesture is mostly symbolic. In practical terms, the reshaping of the G-8 will not affect tangible results. But it may hurt Russia's pride. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early ‘90's, Russia has been trying to reestablish itself as a world power. Its addition to the G-8 in 1998 was seen as a significant step toward that goal. Hosting the Winter Olympics in Sochi just recently was another form of posturing. The G-7's cancelation of a long-planned summit there in June, however, removes another chance for Putin to present his ambitious nation in a favorable light to the rest of the world. For all the bluster about their ouster not being a big deal, one can guess at Russia's unseen feelings of resentment.
When looked at in a larger context, Russia's exclusion is quite an event in the diplomatic sphere. I asked our resident political science professor Hong-Ming Liang for his reaction.
"Symbolically, for those interested in global studies and world history, this is a big moment. What it means is that the new global order crafted after the Cold War has collapsed -- the notion that the two former global blocs, led by the US and the USSR/Russia, can collaborate is now in doubt," said Liang.
East is once again pitted against West, just as in the days when NATO allies stood together in the face of the Soviet Union and its satellite nations.
Hopefully the situation will diffuse without bloodshed. The West, especially the U.S., is reticent about using actions harsher than political pressure and sanctions to suppress Moscow, a fact critics of the Obama administration point to as a display of weakness. But if Russian troops began spilling into Eastern Ukraine, as some fear might happen, that hesitancy could be shattered.