Putin, Party of One: Obama 'Leads' Ousting from G-8, But Russia Finds New Friends
Leaders of the G-8 met at the Dutch prime minister's residence Monday night and decided to reduce the size of their fraternity to seven.
The White House was quick to paint the meeting and its outcome as the president's idea.
Russia was expelled from the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries before President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to host the G-8 summit in Sochi at the beginning of June -- technically, Russia became its own Group of One as the others pulled out to form their own G-7. Russia assumed the presidency of the group at the beginning of the year, and soon after invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea.
In what is called The Hague Declaration, leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission, affirmed support for Ukraine's "sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence."
"International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force. To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built. We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution. We also strongly condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations. We do not recognize either," states the declaration.
The leaders said they "remain ready to intensify actions including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy, if Russia continues to escalate this situation."
"This Group came together because of shared beliefs and shared responsibilities. Russia’s actions in recent weeks are not consistent with them. Under these circumstances, we will not participate in the planned Sochi Summit. We will suspend our participation in the G-8 until Russia changes course and the environment comes back to where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion and will meet again in G-7 format at the same time as planned, in June 2014, in Brussels, to discuss the broad agenda we have together. We have also advised our Foreign Ministers not to attend the April meeting in Moscow. In addition, we have decided that G-7 Energy Ministers will meet to discuss ways to strengthen our collective energy security."
The declaration also hails the International Monetary Fund for its "central role leading the international effort to support Ukrainian reform, lessening Ukraine's economic vulnerabilities, and better integrating the country as a market economy in the multilateral system."
A senior administration official told reporters that President Obama "hosted the meeting and led the discussion."
"All of the leaders spoke during the course of the meeting and then the president summarized the way forward at the conclusion of the meeting. And there was agreement on The Hague Declaration, which is a very strong joint statement that hits all of the key elements that we were seeking to get out of this G-7 meeting," the official said.
"…In short, Russia is suspended from the G8 pending its current activities in Ukraine, and the necessity is now on Russia to deescalate to avoid this continued isolation from the international community."
The official stressed that "Eastern and Southern Ukraine is the clearest trigger for these sectoral sanctions" -- so, more invasion by Putin.
But "status quo" -- keeping Crimea -- "could mean more sanctions. Well, it depends on how that status quo evolves, to be completely candid with you."
"…So we believe we’ve imposed a cost and we’re going to continue to impose a cost for what they’ve done in Crimea. They’ve been suspended from the G8. They’ve been isolated politically as well as economically."
Russia, meanwhile, found a new group of old friends to hang out with: BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The foreign ministers of this bloc met on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague today, and apparently told Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that they understood why Russia took Crimea.
"As far as a meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers is concerned, we have heard the understanding of the current situation and of historic aspects of the whole situation here in The Hague, and we are thankful to our partners for this," Lavrov said at a press conference.
BRICS issued a statement attempting to shame Australia for considering restrictions on Putin's participation at the G-20 summit. "The Ministers noted with concern the recent media statement on the forthcoming G20 Summit to be held in Brisbane in November 2014. The custodianship of the G20 belongs to all member-states equally and no one member-state can unilaterally determine its nature and character," the BRICS said in a statement.
A Ukraine aid package cleared a procedural vote in the Senate today by a vote of 78-17. All of the "no" votes came from Republicans.
The bill authorizes $1 billion in loan guarantees to help stabilize Ukraine’s economy and authorizes stronger punitive sanctions. Opponents of the legislation have singled out its provision to appropriate funds for an increase in the U.S. quota in the IMF.
Sponsor and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said on the Senate floor that the bill "provides needed reforms to the United States' participation in the International Monetary Fund, which would allow the United States to leverage significant support from the IMF for Ukraine today and for similar unforeseen crises in the future."
“It’s the IMF that is leading the effort to stabilize Ukraine’s fragile economy, an essential task if there is to be any chance of reaching a peaceful political solution to the standoff with Russia. Congressional ratification of the 2010 IMF reforms would increase IMF emergency funding to Ukraine by up to 60%, and provide an additional $6 billion for longer-term support, setting an important marker for other donors such as the EU and World Bank," Menendez said.
“Failure to approve the reforms, on the other hand, would undermine both the IMF and the international standing of the United States. Some countries are happy to see U.S. global influence diminish. Failing to approve the reforms weakens the United States and emboldens our competitors."
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said this IMF reform would be undertaken at the expense of American troops.
“You don’t need an advanced degree in international relations to understand that the trillion dollars this president has cut from our military has emboldened international bullies like Vladimir Putin," McKeon said earlier this month as the bill was in Menendez's committee. "Now, as we are once again reminded why we need a strong military, Senate Democrats want to further raid the very accounts that make our military ready to meet a crisis."
"Senator Menendez’s bill to fund reforms at the IMF on the backs of our troops is just looney and I will strongly oppose it if it comes to the House. If the Senate is serious about protecting Ukraine, they should work with the House to pass something that can be adopted quickly by both chambers."