G-7 Leaders to Putin, Russia: You're Out

G-7 Leaders to Putin, Russia: You're Out
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The United States and leaders of the largest economies wagered Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will fret about his nation’s ouster from a global club Moscow worked hard to join beginning in the 1990s.

Betting that isolation from institutions and alliances will pressure Putin to change course in Ukraine, representatives of the Group of Seven announced in the Netherlands they will hold their annual summit without Russia in June, and locate it in Brussels. The G-8 summit had been planned in Sochi until Russia decided to annex the Crimean peninsula in a move rejected by the United States and its G-7 partners.

The Obama administration believes Putin cares deeply about Russia’s status and respect among other nations, and may be dissuaded from advancing further into Ukraine or other neighboring territory out of concern about escalating economic punishments, plus international scorn coupled with entreaties to join talks with Ukraine’s interim government.

The administration said China’s unwillingness to support Russia’s takeover of Crimea through the United Nations Security Council, and the country’s relative neutrality on the Ukraine issue, expressed during a meeting Monday between Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping, sent a pointed message to Putin that his bravado in marching into a tiny peninsula has not been widely admired, even by some of Russia’s most stalwart friends.

Obama held a bilateral meeting with Xi before sitting down with the heads of state from Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom.

Xi offered “support for de-escalation” and backing for a political solution to settle the Ukraine turmoil, White House aides said, though they conceded that China will not support economic sanctions aimed at Moscow.

“Russia cares a lot about its standing in the world,” national security spokesman Ben Rhodes told reporters. “And it matters if traditional friends of Russia cannot express support for their position.”

Russia’s expulsion from the G-8, announced at The Hague on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, was not accompanied by announcements of new international sanctions against the Putin government or Russia’s energy or financial sectors. The hesitation outside of the United States to freeze the energy sector signaled that while there has been unanimity behind punishment, Europe remains cautious about its own potential suffering as a trading partner and target of retaliatory sanctions.

A senior administration official repeated that G-7 leaders “made clear that they’re ready to intensify actions … if Russia continues to escalate the situation.”

The declaration released Monday said the G-8 was dissolved because Moscow violated international law, to the condemnation of the other seven nations.

“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,” the leaders said in their statement.

An unanswered question is whether the G-7 would target Russia for additional punishment if Putin halts further advances into Ukraine. Asked if Crimea was now deemed “gone,” administration officials maintained that annexation cannot be affirmed by the global community. “We're just not going to recognize a new status quo,” Rhodes said.

A previously planned meeting among foreign ministers, slated for next month in Moscow, was canceled by the G-7 leaders Monday. Energy ministers from the seven largest economies now plan to meet to discuss energy security concerns tied to the situation in Ukraine and possible future sanctions.

“We’re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far,” Obama explained.

The president on Tuesday will continue attending the summit on nuclear security, at which Japan has agreed to work with the United States to remove and destroy stocks of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium, which is used to make nuclear weapons.

After a news conference and additional meetings, Obama will fly to Brussels, where he’ll meet on Wednesday with representatives of the European Union and NATO. The president will deliver a speech in Brussels at the Palais de Beaux-Arts, about the situation in Ukraine and about the importance of transatlantic security, White House officials said.

On Thursday, he meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican before flying to Saudi Arabia Friday to meet with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh. 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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