Monday, May 30, 2016
Not Much Hope for Real G7 Support
With the deadline approaching on extending sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea, the former captive nations and the free world had hoped that the G7 leaders would resoundingly and unanimously endorse their extension because of Moscow’s obstinate belligerence against its neighbor.
President Poroshenko had personally provided the G7 leaders with evidence of a surge in Russia’s war in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine and urged them to extend their sanctions against Russia following its repeated violations of the Minsk agreement. At a meeting with G7 ambassadors, Poroshenko showed that Russia increased the number of attacks against Ukrainian army positions.
“The G7 ambassadors were provided with comprehensive evidence of violations by Russia, the presence of Russian troops in the occupied areas of Donbas and continued dispatch of fighters and ammunition from Russia to the occupied territories,” his press service reported.
Leading up to the G7 Summit and during the deliberations, Polish and other x-captive nations’ leaders echoed Poroshenko’s appeals and expressed their expectations that the sanctions will certainly be prolonged because, after all, Russia has not lived up to its obligations: it had not withdrawn its armies and weapons from Ukraine, and it had not returned Crimea to Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel assumed a hard line against Russia, declaring the sanctions will definitely be extended and, furthermore, Russia will not be re-invited to join the super club of independent states until it changes its behavior.
“For me it’s too early to give the all clear,” Merkel told reporters in response to questions, adding that an earlier pro-sanction policy would remain in place. “There is no change of position to be expected from the G7,” she added.
The UK’s David Cameron opined “The G7 has agreed on the vital importance of sanctions rollover in June. Ukraine is the victim of Russian-backed aggression. We must never forget that fact.”
Ultimately, news media trumpeted that the G7 has indeed extended sanctions against criminal Russia. It was an understandable decision against an outlaw state and government.
Then, suddenly, even before the ink had dried on the summit’s final document, some of the members began to change their position. Prevarication set it. They were willing to provide Russia with wiggle room, an opportunity to delay or avoid reforming altogether.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier first publically advocated lifting economic sanctions on Russia, under certain conditions. Western countries needed to keep up the pressure on Moscow by enforcing what he called “intelligent” bans.
“Sanctions are not an end in themselves: that has always been my attitude,” Steinmeier told German weekly Der Spiegel in an interview after the summit concluded, adding that if Russia contributes to peace in eastern Ukraine, it should also see a positive effect. “If there is progress in implementing the Minsk agreement, we can also speak about relaxing the sanctions.”
His spokesman Martin Schäfer said it was “correct and important to keep up the pressure on Moscow but also to use the instrument of sanctions against Russia in an intelligent manner.”
Why clarify an already weak, perfunctory conclusion of the G7 leaders to extend sanctions with a wink?
The Kremlin, expectedly, warned against extending the sanctions, saying they will not have a positive impact on the global economy and on global affairs. “The Kremlin's position has not changed: we still believe that this is not an issue on our agenda,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Actually, the G7’s position on Ukraine and Russia is akin to a toothless paper tiger. Its views on Ukraine appeared on page 22 of a 32-page final document. This is what it said:
“We stand united in our conviction that the conflict in Ukraine can only be solved by diplomatic means and in full respect for international law, especially the legal obligation to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
“We reiterate our condemnation of the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia and reaffirm our policy of its non-recognition and sanctions against those involved.
“We are concerned by continued violence along the line of contact in violation of the ceasefire; we urge all sides to take concrete steps that will lead to the complete ceasefire required under the Minsk agreements.
“We also urge all sides to fulfill their commitments without delay with a view to holding local elections in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as soon as possible in accordance with the Minsk agreements.
“We emphasize our strongest support for full implementation of the Minsk agreements and the work of the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group.
“We expect Russia to live up to its commitments and use its influence over the separatists to meet their commitments in full.
“We stress the OSCE's key role in helping to deescalate the crisis, and we call upon all sides, particularly the separatists, to provide the organization’s monitors full and unfettered access throughout the conflict zone.
“We recall that the duration of sanctions is clearly linked to Russia’s complete implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Sanctions can be rolled back when Russia meets these commitments.
“However, we also stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase cost on Russia should its actions so require.
“We recognize the importance of maintaining dialogue with Russia in order to ensure it abides by the commitments it has made as well as international law and to reach a comprehensive, sustainable and peaceful solution to the crisis.
“We commend and support the steps Ukraine is taking to implement comprehensive structural, governance and economic reforms and encourage Ukraine to continue and accelerate the process.
We urge Ukraine to maintain and enhance the momentum in its fight against corruption and its judicial reform, including the Prosecutor General’s office.
“We are fully committed to providing long-term support to this end.
“We also commend the work of the Ukraine support group of G7 Ambassadors in Kyiv.
“We reaffirm our commitment to undertake joint efforts with Ukraine to convert the Chornobyl site into a stable and environmentally safe condition, 30 years after the catastrophe.”
This final statement shows that major world leaders persist in calling the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-16 a conflict, which means that its solution could be negotiated as if between squabbling partners. They placed the onus of a solution of both the aggressor and victim. They insisted on maintaining a dialogue with Russia. They accentuated their commitment to rolling back sanctions against Russia if it meets its global commitments and obligations without any visible indication that Moscow is leaning in that direction.
The free world should not follow Russia’s script on how to deal with its criminality. Weighing Russian global or domestic crimes should not be undertaken through the prism of Russia’s nuclear weapons.
Russia refuses to recognize its commitments and withdraw from Ukraine. The longer Russian armies and terrorists remain in Ukraine, the greater the threat against the other former captive nations and the greater likelihood that murderous acts of Russian-inspired terrorism will spread across and beyond Ukraine.
While providing Ukraine with lethal weapons remains an impossible dream, the G7 could escalate the requirements for rolling back sanctions by instituting a firm deadline, increasing military and political pressure against Russia not merely focusing attention on economic ones, and begin referring to Russia as the Russian Nazi Republic.
Nothing else has worked so perhaps public shame will have an impact on the Kremlin.