The March 24 decision by seven major industrial countries (the G7) to suspend Russia from the informal grouping called the G8 is not surprising in view of Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea. Specifically, the G7 announced in what it called the Hague Declaration — made on the sidelines of the global Nuclear Security Summit — that it would not attend the forthcoming G8 summit in Sochi and would instead meet as the G7 in Brussels; it has also threatened “co-ordinated sectoral sanctions” if Moscow continues to “escalate this situation.” Russia has been a G8 participant since 1998, under a general plan to strengthen East-West relations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had earlier shrugged off the possibility of expulsion, pointing out that as the G8 has no formal membership no country can be expelled from it; in addition, the Ukrainian embassy in the Netherlands has reported Mr. Lavrov as saying Russia had no intention of using military force in eastern and southern Ukraine, and that if the situation worsens, Ukrainian-Russian contacts will occur at the foreign ministry and defence ministry levels.

The G7 decision is, however, open to exploitation. To start with, the G7 has apparently accepted the appointment of many Ukrainian ministers with neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic backgrounds. Secondly, NATO has asserted that Russia plans a Crimea-type move for the autonomous Moldovan territorial unit of Transnistria, where Russian is the official language and the most widely used one; Moscow rejected a 2006 poll there showing that 96 per cent of the population favoured joining Russia. NATO, needless to say, has often tried to justify its own existence since the Soviet Union collapsed; the Warsaw Treaty Organisation (the Warsaw Pact) had a 2004 dissolution date, but NATO has no such limit. Western militaries and arms manufacturers also stand to benefit from another Cold War. Former British Chief of Staff Lord Dannatt has called for a new brigade of 3,000 troops to be sent to Germany, while current plans are to remove all 20,000 such troops from that deployment, which dates from 1945. Given that European Union countries buy Russian oil and natural gas for hard currency, anti-Russian sanctions mean that western oil corporations will welcome British Prime Minister David Cameron’s immediate call for more fracking, which is a highly controversial activity in his country. Financial bodies, nevertheless, may not like sanctions; Visa and MasterCard have resumed services to customers of Russia’s SMP Bank. The G7 move, in sum, is less principled than it might look, and western legislatures must scrutinise their respective executives closely over their handling of the Ukraine crisis.

More In: Editorial | Opinion