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9 things Putin needs to do before Russia rejoins G7: Heritage report

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Days before this year’s meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) from August 24 to 26, President Donald Trump proposed that Russia be allowed to rejoin the group in 2020. Russia was once part of what was then the G8, and was kicked out after its invasion of Ukraine in 2014. The US should not support the idea of Russia rejoining the bloc until Russia meets certain conditions regarding its nefarious behavior.

International cooperation

The G7 consists of seven of the world’s advanced industrialized economies—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Combined, these seven countries account for 50% of global wealth.

They are also all democracies and close treaty allies. The group meets annually to discuss issues such as shared global security and economic matters.

Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

In 2014, Russia was part of the group, the G8. Russia first joined in 1997. This was at a time when Boris Yeltsin was still in power and Western relations with Russia looked promising.

Since President Vladimir Putin ascended to power in 1999, relations with Russia have ebbed and flowed, but have generally been on a downward trajectory. Since 1999, Putin has done nothing to indicate that he would be a trustworthy partner to America. At almost every opportunity, he has pursued polices that undermine US national interests and the interests of America’s closest partners.

Putin cannot be trusted

Putin’s behavior resembles that of the czars more than that of his Soviet predecessors. Everything this imperial leader does aims to maximize and secure his personal power. The impact of his reign has been bad for Russia.

In recent years, democracy has been in retreat, basic freedoms (of speech, assembly, and a free press) have been eroded, minority groups and political opposition figures are often oppressed—and sometimes killed—and the country’s economy is in tatters.

To distract his people from their many woes, Putin has pursued a dangerously aggressive and expansionist foreign policy. Along the way, he has undone the post-World War II world order and undermined America’s strategic interests in many parts of the world.

Russian police detain a teenager during rally protesting retirement age hikes in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 9, 2018.
Roman Pimenov/Interpress photo via AP

Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia in 2008 and continues to occupy, illegally, 20% of that country’s territory. Six years later, Putin invaded Ukraine and illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula—the first time one European country used military force to annex part of another since the days of Hitler. Russia still fuels a separatist conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine, creating strife for yet another.

Russia has sowed anxiety and instability throughout most of the rest of Europe, as well. It has weaponized its natural gas exports to Europe, turning off the tap when countries dare go against its wishes. It has conducted cyber attacks against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member Estonia and NATO partners Georgia and Ukraine, and has conducted military exercises to simulate a nuclear strike against NATO member Poland.

In Syria, Russia continues to prop up President Bashir al-Assad. This has turned Syria into a breeding ground for Islamist extremists and has led to the endless suffering, displacement, and death of millions of Syrians.

Not ready to rejoin

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. Moscow was duly removed from the G8, and the group reverted back to the G7.

Before Russia is invited back into the group, Moscow must—at a minimum—do the following:

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