The Group of Seven countries — the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada — held an emergency summit in The Hague on Monday and adopted a declaration strongly condemning “Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations.”
In the Hague Declaration, the seven countries also made it clear that they would not attend a G-8 summit planned in Sochi for June and instead hold a G-7 summit in Brussels.
Russia joined the G-7 in 1998 to form the G-8. The declaration represents the G-7 countries’ harshest response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Russia should heed the voice of the international community as expressed by the declaration and drop expansionist moves against Ukraine.
The G-7 stopped short of permanently expelling Russia from the G-8 and left a place for resolving the Crimea issue through diplomatic means. It is imperative for the G-7 countries to seek a diplomatic solution in a coolheaded and flexible manner while maintaining a resolute stance toward Russia.
After President Viktor Yanukovych’s government in Kiev collapsed on Feb. 23 and a new, pro-European Union government was established on Feb. 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin swiftly took action, including backing a referendum in Crimea to incorporate the peninsula into Russia.
In the declaration, the G-7 countries reaffirmed “our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and independence” and criticized Russia’s move: “This clear violation of international law is a serious challenge to the rule of law around the world and should be a concern for all nations.”
But because Russia appears determined not to give up Crimea, where Russia has a naval base, the G-7 nations should be prepared to persevere for some time.
The G-7 nations hinted that if Russia sends military forces into the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine — where many Russian-speaking people live — they will impose sanctions aimed at Russia’s leading industries including the energy and financial sectors. In this connection, the Hague Declaration said: “We 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.”
Although the confrontation between the G-7 nations and Russia has intensified, both camps should do their best to prevent a return to the atmosphere of the Cold War, when militaries and economies were divided between the Western and Eastern blocs. These days, Russia and Europe have close economic relations.
Britain has close relations with Russia in the financial sector, and Germany has close ties with Russia in the energy field. Germany and Italy are heavy exporters to Russia. The possibility that further sanctions against Russia could also hurt Europe creates room for both sides to try to resolve the situation through diplomacy. China, which has taken a neutral stance on Russia’s annexation of Crimea, should strive to reconcile Russia and the G-7 countries.
Japan this time has stayed in step with other G-7 countries in countering Russia, and promised ¥150 billion in financial aid to Ukraine. It should seriously seek out ways to bring a diplomatic solution to the situation.