Crimea. The answer is Crimea.
OK, in honor of President Donald Trump saying he believes Russia should be readmitted to the G-7 (returning it to G-8-ness) we can go a little deeper into the history than that. It was 1998 and Boris Yeltsin was running things in Moscow when Russia was invited to join the G-7, the exclusive club of the world's major industrial democracies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Nearly a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the invitation was meant to "encourage Russia to keep moving toward building a pluralistic political system, strengthening the rule of law, ensuring an independent judiciary and integrating with the global economy," as the Brookings Institution put it.
But by the mid-2000s, it was becoming clear to the international community that Vladimir Putin, who took over from Yeltsin in 2000, was pulling his nation on a slide back toward authoritarianism reminiscent of the Soviet days. Still, Russia managed to stay in the G-8 until 2014, when Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea after launching a stealth invasion there and supporting a referendum vote that western powers deemed illegitimate. On March 18, 2014, Putin proudly welcomed the new "citizens of Russia."
"In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia," he said then.
Less than a week later, the older group members showed Putin the door.
"International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force. To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built," the G-7 countries said in a joint statement. "We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution. We also strongly condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations. We do not recognize either."
In January last year a spokesperson for Putin told reporters that Russia had no intention of rejoining the international group. In March 2017, Putin said, "We did not refuse to be in the G8. Our partners chose not to come to us. We will always gladly welcome anyone who wants to cooperate with Russia in any format."
But after Trump's support for a reunion, and Italy's apparent agreement, who knows what's to come.
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