Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 24.04.2018
“Russia threatens global peace and security.” With those words, Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, gave the conclusion of the meeting in Toronto of the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven countries plus Ukraine. Russian aggression is the defining emergency of our times, and the G7 is finally starting to deal with the emergency.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. The reaction of the democratic West has been completely inadequate to the existential threat posed by an act of aggression which is comparable to the invasion of Poland in September 1939 by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Ukraine has been left on its own to defend its own territory and the values of Western civilization against Russian aggression.
Canada holds the Presidency of the G7 this year, and is making helping Ukraine and stopping Russia a priority. Minister Freeland invited Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, to meet with the G7 foreign ministers and give the Ukrainian perspective on Putin at war. Recall that Russia was kicked out of the what was being called the Group of Eight, soon after Putin’s invasion army began its rampage through Crimea and Donbas in Ukraine. The G8 went back to being the G7, and there is no prospect of Russia returning to that forum.
With the prominence of Ukraine at the Toronto meeting of foreign ministers, we may be seeing a de facto G8 returning. Ukraine is, after all, a like-minded country to the members of the G7: the Ukrainian nation is democratic, European, Western, and aspires to take its rightful place as a member of NATO and as a member of the EU. Minister Klimkin said: “All the ministers express opinion that Ukraine is a part of the democratic community and transatlantic community.” Because Ukraine is “one of us” when it comes to the G7, the invasion by Russia of Crimea and Donbas is an invasion of Europe and a war against the West. Again Minister Klimkin: “Russia's aggression against Ukraine concerns not only us, but the entire democratic world.”
The de facto G8 – Ukraine joining forces with the G7 – has agreed to unite to oppose Russian aggression. The G7 foreign ministers heard the Ukrainian foreign minister’s position and agreed with it: aggression by Russia against Ukraine is aggression against the entire civilized world. What is undeniable is that Russia will continue to attack and to destabilize Ukraine as a free and independent nation. What is certain is that Russia will continue to attack and to destabilize democratic institutions world-wide. That is why the G7 plus Ukraine agreed to establish a working group to counter Russia’s 21st century imperialism – the ‘hybrid war’ Russia is waging beyond its borders against Western civilization.
Both Minister Freeland and Minister Klimkin were coy about specifics. Canada’s foreign minister said: “In terms of the specific responses, that is the homework which we ministers gave ourselves and committed to bring to our leaders.” Ukraine’s foreign minister said: “I cannot disclose some ideas as they are under consideration of the presidency [meaning Canada’s guidance of the G7 in 2018], but I think they will be promoted in a couple of months.”
A simple start for the G7 plus Ukraine working group on Russian aggression would be to increase sanctions on Russian individuals and entities. Ukraine has already presented to EU foreign ministers a list of 140 organizers of the illegal ‘election’ which was conducted by Russia on the territory of Ukraine – in Crimea – on March 18. This is a starting point for new sanctions, and will be a potent sign that Western nations will defend democracy and a rules-based international order. Canada, the EU, and the United States did a similar round of sanctions after the illegal ‘election’ in Crimea on 18 September 2016. At that time, the democratic West sanctioned the so-called ‘deputies’ who were sent to the Russian Duma from Ukrainian Crimea. Now is the time for the democratic West to sanction the organizers of voting for the Russian presidency from Ukrainian Crimea.
A working group of the G7 plus Ukraine on countering Russian aggression is a fine thing, but only if it leads to actually countering Russian aggression. Lives are at stake. Russia is invading and occupying Crimea and Donbas right now, and Putin’s War is raging on a battlefront that stretches across Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s war against the West is an emergency which demands action. Four years and more after Russia invaded Europe in Ukraine is far too long for Western civilization to realize the existential threat from Putin at war. The new G8 – the G7 plus Ukraine – may be a moment of awakening, if it leads to action to defeat Russian aggression and win victory for Western civilization.