G8 without Russia: Does it mean anything for Moscow?

Becoming a member of G-8 has been quite prestigious goal for Russia. Now, Russia is again out, does it have any impact on Russia in your opinion? Read few comments.

Juliane Fürst, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History, University of Bristol

I think objectively, of course, the fact that Russia is now not privy to the consultations and decision-making of the most powerful nations in the world is not good for them. Subjectively – meaning from Russia’s point of view – the exclusion just confirms Russia’s perception of being encircled by enemies, that the West is out to destroy it etc. However, under Yeltsin lack of Western recognition would have been considered shameful and as a sign of failure of the Russian government. Under Putin loss of membership is now a badge of honor and symbol of Russia’s refusal to bow to Western pressure. In other words in the short run Russia is going to pride itself to be the outsider. In the long run some oligarchs and Kremlin moderates might have doubts (they might have them already). But in general I have not seen significant cracks in the attitude of defiance that comes out of Russia. Videos are circulating in which youth, as a response to sanctions, steel their bodies through military-style training. The voice over says: You do not understand that putting pressure on us makes us harder.

Sergey Utkin, Head of Department of Strategic Assessment, Centre for Situation Analysis, Russian Academy of Sciences

The G8 was prestigious indeed but I would not overestimate the meaning of it, be it for the country or for the Russian leaders. The G8/7 is still no more than a club that may help coordinate policies where its members are ready for that but it doesn’t have an impact on a member nearly as deep as membership in the EU or NATO does. If the G7 countries feel they have to talk to Russia on this or that global issue, they will find the way. Common people do not care at all about their country not being part of the group.

Sean RobertsLecturer in International Relations and Politics, University of Portsmouth

Russia’s membership of G7 in 1998, taking the format to G8, was an important milestone in Russia’s integration into the international community, culminating with WTO membership in 2012. Aside from prestige, membership of these organisations provide important forums for discussing key issues concerning the regulation of the global economy. As such, they give Russia some influence in a global financial and economic system it did not create. This is the impact of Russia’s exclusion – a loss of ‘voice’ among a group of countries that exert disproportional influence over the global economy. How much influence is difficult to gauge. Over the past few years, Russia has promoted G20 and BRICS as alternative forums, based on a belief that the international system is presently undergoing a major transformation, post 2008 financial crisis, and that the ‘historical west’, including G7 members, are losing relevance. But for as long as the dollar remains the global currency, Russia’s prediction of the demise of the west seems a little premature.

But, Russia-G7 conflict is unavoidable, in view of the context. There are many aspects to the Ukraine crisis, but in essence, it was and is an economic conflict. The conflict was sparked by EU-Russia competition for the Ukrainian market, EU Association Agreement versus Eurasian Economic Union. So, it was of little surprise that Russia’s membership of G7 was suspended almost as soon as the Ukraine crisis unfolded. It is the G7 members who are effectively driving the sanctions against Russia, and it is the broad values of this ‘western’ club that Russia rejects. There is also some specific political context to take into account. For example, it’s no surprise that Canada is one of the most vocal G7 critics of Russia, in view of the large number of ethnic Ukrainian voters living in the country.

Richard ConnollySenior Lecturer in Political Economy, Co-Director, Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham

I think that exclusion from the G8 has very little impact on Russia. In the past, membership of such organisations (and others, such as the WTO) was a matter of prestige for Russia: it wanted to be an equal member of the Western-dominated international organisations. Membership did not really confer any material advantages, but it did make Russia feel like a respected power. Things are different now. I suspect that exclusion from Western clubs is not something that irks Russia as much as it did in the 1990s. Now Russia prefers to be seen as part of the dynamic, rising powers like China and India. Hence a greater emphasis on organisations like the SCO, BRICS, and of course, the Eurasian Union.

Matthew Rojansky, ‎Director at Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

In my view the impact is largely rhetorical and diplomatic. Economically Russia is much more impacted by oil price fluctuations and sanctions than by G8 membership. The point of ejecting Russia from G8 was to signal Russia’s isolation. Yet the fact that Kerry recently visited Russia suggests Russia is not wholly isolated nor can be. Russia is not Iran, no matter how bad its behavior, it will be difficult or even impossible to fully isolate it from the global economy.

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