US President Donald Trump has canceled this year’s G7 summit, which was due to be held in June, and now wants to host an expanded meeting in September dedicated to countering China. However, much to the annoyance of his fellow counterparts, Trump has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to this year’s event.
South Korea, Australia and India have also been invited to the G7’s meeting in September as part of the US President’s plan to build an alliance to contain China. This is an excellent opportunity for the US to reassert its strength on the global stage, and the coronavirus has provided many nations with an incentive to counter Beijing’s growing influence.
G7’s Current Format is ‘Outdated’
Trump has described the G7’s current format as “outdated,” and he is right to say this. There are now more powerful players in the international community compared to when the original G7 was formed on November 15, 1975. The Spectator argued last year that the club should include China, but that won’t happen now. This is an opportunity for the group to, as the US President said, represent “what’s going on in the world.”
Unfortunately this positive move has been overshadowed by Trump’s decision to invite Putin to this year’s postponed summit. Russia became a member of the G7 in 1997 under Boris Yeltsin’s tenure, and for 16 years all the group’s members met together as the G8. Following Moscow’s occupation of the Crimea, Ukraine, in 2014, the club was then renamed to the G7.
Having Putin as an Ally Would Make Trump’s Life Easier
It is understandable why the US President wants Russia to become a more cooperative player on the international stage. Relations between Moscow and Washington soured during the final years of George W. Bush’s presidency. They then got worse throughout Barack Obama’s eight years in office. The Russian Government was also accused of interfering in the 2016 US general election. Considering Trump’s predecessor failed to challenge Russia’s growing hegemony, there was little incentive for Putin to cooperate with the West.
Equally, the biggest obstacle to successful Western-Russian cooperation is the latter’s continued occupation of the Crimea. That is why both Canada and the UK vowed to veto Moscow’s participation in this year’s G7 summit on Tuesday morning. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said that the British Government is yet to see a “change of behavior” from Russia.
The Situation in Crimea is Worsening
There is no evidence to suggest that the situation in the Crimea is improving either. Analyst Paul Goble wrote an article for The Jamestown Foundation which stated that Russia may seize more territory in the Ukraine due to freshwater slumps decreasing by 60 percent, which could cause a health crisis in the Crimea. This would provide Moscow with an excuse to continue its invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has attempted to collaborate with Putin in finding a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian conflict. However, the latter said in December 2019 that he viewed southern and eastern Ukraine as “ancestral Russian lands,” and the Russian President has provided many Ukrainians with Russian passports. Atlantic Council’s Peter Dickinson argues this is “annexation in all but name.”
Russian-Chinese Relations Growing Stronger
Furthermore, it appears as if Russia and China have both used the coronavirus as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship. TASS Russian News Agency reports that Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirmed that both countries are strengthening their collaboration at a recent press conference, even though there are currently 424,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Russia. Therefore, it seems like Moscow’s interests lie elsewhere.
Until the situation in the Ukraine improves and Russia distances itself from China, it would be a grave mistake for Putin to attend this year’s G7 summit. The Russian President has failed to demonstrate any evidence that he is willing to change his ways. It would make Trump’s life easier if he did, but Russia’s current leader continues to prove that he is not genuinely interested in peace.