Does Russia Need to Go Back to the “Big Seven”?

Our coming back to the “club of chosen” will be used

At the recent G7 summit in the Sicilian town of Taormina, Prime Minister of Italy Paolo Gentiloni, according to Western media reports, offered to think about inviting Russia into the G7 club. Other participants, however, rejected this idea, noting that at first Russia should “fulfill the Minsk agreements on Donbass.” As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “Russia is excluded from the group because of the situation in Ukraine. So if it wants to come back it needs to resolve this situation. This means the implementation of the Minsk agreements and the restoration of the Ukrainian sovereignty.”

Some Russian media encouraged by this fact, describing it as a chance for the future return of our country to the “community of civilized nations.” In his turn, Russia's Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said that Russia’s return to the club of industrialized countries “is not very prospective.” According to Russian state media, “Big Seven” summit turned out to be useless, have not shown “any concrete solutions to the fundamental problems,” accepted declaration was “the shortest” for the recent years, and now all the attention will be brought to the upcoming meeting of the “Big twenty.”

Let’s remember the background of how Russia got into this “club of chosen”. It happened in 1997, after our country sought to participate in the G7 summits for several years. In that period on the wave of romantic faith in the ideals of democracy and a market economy in the Russian society has spread almost religious worship of the West and imitation of him in all public life spheres. Foreign policy was based on the “recommendations” of Washington and focused on the entry of Russia into the Western civilization.

However, the bombing of Belgrade in 1999, sobered the majority of Russian citizens up. People have realized the useless efforts to be a member of the Western community, which ignored Russia's national interests. The membership of our country in the “club of chosen” was very ambiguous and humiliating. For example, the Russian representatives were not invited at the meeting of Finance Ministers on the most important issues of the world economy.

G7 policy in the post-Soviet space is also very significant. Any Russian actions aimed at development of friendly relations with the former Soviet republics, G7 considered as attempts to rebuild the “Soviet Empire”, and strongly opposed to the integration processes in the post-Soviet space. Supporting the formal dialogue with Russia in the framework of G7, the Western countries at the same time tried to slow down any form of integration with Russia's participation (political, military, economic) in the CIS, in particular through the EU-funded project “Eastern partnership.” They refused interaction with all integration associations of the CIS countries, believing that contacts of this kind would be confirmation of the legitimacy of such structures, and accordingly, the recognition of the leading role of Russia in the former Soviet Union.

Russia has endured such an attitude for a long time, hoping for a gradual achievement of mutual understanding with Western countries and the recognition of its legitimate interests. The country's leaders continued to participate in the G7 summits, which were considered as one of the channels of communicating with the Western States leaders. Sometimes Russian officials expressed their opinion about the West's attitude to our country, as President Vladimir Putin did in his famous Munich speech in 2007.

The situation in Ukraine, which became a “moment of truth” in relations of Russia with the G7 and the West in general, has changed everything.

In politics in the former Soviet Union, the G7 countries gave key attention to the issue of Ukraine's participation in integration projects with Russia, including economic – the Eurasian Economic Union, the Eurasian Customs Union. Basically, Western countries continue to be guided by the well-known formula of Zbigniew Brzezinski stated in his book “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives”: without Ukraine Russia is not able to claim the role of a great power with global interests (in his terminology – “a powerful Eurasian Empire”).

The West interprets Maidan events as a result of “stubborn” Russia's position on the question of the conclusion of the Association agreement between Ukraine and the EU. Allegedly, Moscow refused to recognize the right of Kiev on parallel cooperation with Russia and the West, putting the Ukrainians before a choice. But even under Yanukovych, who tried to pursue a policy of “equidistance” from Russia and the West, the European Union has repeatedly warned leaders in Kiev that if Ukraine joins the Customs Union, the conclusion of an Association agreement with the EU will be impossible. In other words, the EU adhered to in respect of Ukraine uncompromising and hard-line position “whoever is not with us is against us.”

This position has led to an expected result: with the obvious and the secret G7 support, a coup happened in Kiev. The West has excluded Russia from the “club of chosen” and imposed trade, financial, and technological sanctions, using our country's dependence on its commodity markets, credits, and technologies.

Of course, even before the Ukrainian events, Russia understood that G7 cannot be considered as a mainstay in the international arena and we need to look for reliable partners elsewhere.

Russia has found such partners among the biggest developing countries – China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. At the initiative of our country in June 2006 – shortly before President Vladimir Putin delivered his famous speech in Munich, was formed a group of BRICS. In 2009, Yekaterinburg hosted the first summit of the new Association at which the leaders of the “Five” openly claimed about the injustice of a unipolar world and the intention to fight for the creation of a polycentric world order in the interests of developing countries.

After the global crisis of 2008-2009, the BRICS called for a deep restructuring of the international financial system and achieved from the West a broad dialogue on the issues of the world economy. The “Group of Twenty”, which includes the largest Western and developing states, was reformatted.  Previously, this group was “barely breathing” and performed the function of the discussion club, but after the global economic crisis it became the development center of the most important decisions to reform the global economy, pushing the G7 on the second plan. Annual summits of “Twenty” have really turned into the “Big Twenty.”

The BRICS countries acted in the “Big Twenty” with a united position. They contributed to the development of stabilization measures that helped to prevent the spread of the crisis in 2009. At the initiative of the BRICS at the next summit in 2010, was made the decision on the reform of the IMF towards greater consideration of the developing countries interests. This agreement formed the basis of the resolution of the IMF Board of Governors on holding the 14th round of quota review, which increased the share of developing countries and was completed in 2016. Thus began a deep reform of the global governance system on a more equitable basis.

BRICS partners recognize the legitimate interests of Russia in the former Soviet Union, supporting and developing communication with the integration associations. In particular, in May 2015 the leaders of Russia and China have agreed to integrate the Eurasian Economic Union and the Economic Belt of the Silk Road, and the apparatus of this Union – the Eurasian Economic Commission – started negotiations with China to conclude a comprehensive agreement on trade and economic cooperation. Other BRICS countries have expressed the wish to conclude free trade agreement with the EAEC.

After the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions, the value of the BRICS was strongly evident for Russia. Russia's partners in BRICS showed that this group has become a reliable support for our country in the international arena. China, India, Brazil, and South Africa not only condemned the Western policy of economic pressure on Russia, but also intensified political contacts and business connections with the Russian Federation, especially in those economic sectors most severely affected by Western sanctions: finance, energy, and defense industry.

Since the introduction of Western sanctions, Russia's political leadership has spent almost 50 summits with the BRICS partners. Countries of “Five” have signed more than 140 contracts and agreements in the economic field.

So, our BRICS partners broke the plans of G7 to isolate Russia in international politics and to organize its economic blockade. They helped us through the tough times, and the Russian economy began to gradually recover from the crisis.

We note one more peculiarity of the recent G7 summit in Sicily.

Once again the G7 leaders in the final declaration “expressed concern about the situation in the South China and East China seas” and called on all the parties “to achieve the demilitarization of the disputed territories”.

The statement of G7 is a condemnation of the actions of China, which has territorial disputes with a member of the “club of chosen” (Japan, the Senkaku Islands) and some countries of Southeast Asia (Spratly archipelago) in these waters.

Therefore, the very formulation of the question about the possibility of Russia’s coming back to the G7 must be seen as a choice between two opposing options. First option – we are again trying to “enter” in the Western community as our Ukrainian neighbors. Obviously, the G7 countries will use the possibility of our return to the “club” as “carrots”, which hung before the donkey's nose when you want to drive it in the desired direction, for example, to push to resolve the crisis in the Eastern regions of Ukraine on the terms of the West. Second option – we continue to strengthen equal and mutually respectful cooperation with China and other developing states, fight for the formation of a multipolar world order (including through the mechanism of “Group of Twenty”) and use them to strengthen the integration associations in the former Soviet Union.

It seems that Russia's recent history gives an unequivocal answer to the question which path we should choose.