On Friday, in his meeting with the Group of Seven countries, President Donald Trump proposed that Russia be able to rejoin the G-7.
Russian President Vladimir Putin would need to do much to re-qualify for that privilege, since Russia still retains its hold on Crimea and maintains troops in eastern Ukraine. After all, these are the very reasons Russia was originally ousted from the group in March 2014.
The G-7 comprises seven of the world’s advanced industrialized economies. They are also all democracies. These same countries happen to be America’s close allies, too—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The group meets annually to discuss issues such as shared global security and economic matters.
Over four years ago, Russia actually was part of the group, which then was known as the G-8. Russia first joined the G-8 in 1997 when Boris Yeltsin was still in power. Back then, Western relations with Russia looked promising, so it made perfect sense for the eight countries to align.
However, when Russia decided in March 2014 to illegally annex Crimea and invade the Donbas region of Ukraine, it proved it was no longer a trustworthy actor on the international stage. Thus, the G-8 removed Moscow and reverted back to the G-7.
On Friday, Trump suggested that Russia should be readmitted into the group. But before this can happen, at a minimum Russia must do the following:
- Russia must fully restore Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory, which includes the Crimean Peninsula and the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. From these two regions, Russia must remove all of its troops, Russian mercenaries, and security officials. Moscow must also introduce a robust disarming and demobilization program for Russian-backed separatists in these regions.
- Russia must pay full compensation and economic reparations to Ukraine for its actions since 2014.
- Russia must release all Ukrainian political prisoners who have been held in custody since 2014. Today, Russia holds over 70 political prisoners from Ukraine.
- Moscow must formally apologize to the Crimean Tatars for their treatment during Russia’s occupation of Crimea. The Crimean Tatars are a Sunni-Muslim and ethnically Turkic minority group who have encountered much religious and political persecution from the Russians.
- Russia must also acknowledge responsibility for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July of 2014. MH17 was en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. When the plane was flying over eastern Ukraine, Russian soldiers fired a missile from its 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade and shot it down. A total of 298 people from 17 countries died as a result.
In May 2018, Russia was found responsible for the tragedy but Putin denies it. In addition to owning up, Russia must formally apologize to and suitably compensate the families of those who lost loved ones in the incident.
- Russia must also be in full compliance of the 2008 Six-Point Ceasefire Agreement with Georgia regarding the two occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. A decade after the cease-fire ended, Russia still has not lived up to its side of the bargain. There are several thousand Russian troops stationed in these occupied regions, which total up to 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.
- Moscow must end its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and demonstrate a genuine willingness to work with the international community to bring a political and peaceful end to the Syrian civil war.
- Russia must cease all meddling in the domestic elections of the U.S. and its allies.
The G-7 is an organization that allows like-minded democracies to work together to tackle many of the world’s major problems. Putin has not demonstrated that he can be a trusted partner, and Trump is wrong to say that Russia should now be allowed back in the club.
However, if Russia changes its ways, it should be invited back into the G-7. Russia is a proud country. For better or for worse, it possesses a history of being at the center of global affairs. But it can only re-enter the G-7 once it demonstrates that it is a responsible and collegiate actor on the international stage.
Sadly, this is unlikely to occur while Putin is in power. The Russian people will continue to suffer, and Russian influence on the international stage will continue to be marginalized.