Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, Senior Fellow at Rondeli Foundation
The current G7 was originally founded through the formation of a single group by six countries (USA, Japan, Germany, UK, France and Italy) while only after 1977, when Canada joined, the group turned into the G7.
In 1997, the group opened its doors to Russia and became G8. This happened despite the aggressive policies exercised by the Kremlin against neighboring states, which was clearly incompatible with the recognized system of norms and principles of international law.
The G7 members at that time still entertained illusions that it was possible to integrate Russia in the Western system of values, which would consequently benefit Russia’s neighborhood as well. In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and occupied 20% of our territories. Despite this, Russia remained a part of the Group of Eight (also known as G8/G7) and only in March 2014, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and launching a war in Eastern Ukraine, it was expelled from this format. Hence, the status-quo of the Group of Seven was reinstated.
The G7 is the most powerful multilateral cooperation format in the world. It brings together three of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (excluding the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation). According to the April 2018 data of the International Monetary Fund, the combined GDPs of the G7 amounted to almost USD 40 trillion, which is about a half of the combined GDP of the world (Source: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2018/01/weodata/weorept.aspx). The decisions made by the G7 have big influence on the international relations system and hence, it is very important for any state, when its interests are upheld in the documents produced by G7.
In my 14 May 2018 blog titled “Why did the Foreign Ministers of G7 not remember Georgia during their 23 April 2018 Toronto Meeting?” I expressed hope that the Charlevoix summit’s concluding document would appropriately uphold Georgian interests. This was also supposed to be facilitated by the 20-25 May 2018 visit of the Prime Minister of Georgia to Washington D.C.
Unfortunately, our expectations were not met. The Charlevoix G7 summit communiqué talks about Russia’s aggressive actions, including in its neighborhood, expresses support to Ukraine yet says not even a single word about Georgia and its problems with Moscow. As if Georgia is not in the Russian neighborhood or Russia has not occupied 20% of our territory.
Point 17 of the communiqué reads:
17. “…We reiterate our condemnation of the illegal annexation of Crimea and reaffirm our enduring support for Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders. We maintain our commitment to assisting Ukraine in implementing its ambitious and necessary reform agenda. We recall that the continuation of sanctions is clearly linked to Russia’s failure to demonstrate complete implementation of its commitments in the Minsk Agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and we fully support the efforts within the Normandy Format and of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for a solution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Should its actions so require, we also stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on Russia. We remain committed to support Russian civil society and to engage and invest in people-to-people contact.” (Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-g7-summit-communique-text/the-charlevoix-g7-summit-communique-idUSKCN1J5107).
During the Prime Minister’s visit to the US, Georgia received a lot of support. Especially notable was the support to the demand about Russia removing its armed forces from the occupied Georgian territories. On 21 May, at the opening of the annual US-Georgia Strategic Partnership Council, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated: “The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil. Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security” (Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/pompeo-calls-for-russian-troop-pullout-from-georgia/29240854.html).
Given this statement, we can assume that Charlevoix was not raised in the talks with the Secretary of State at all. If it had been, we could have gotten a version of the communiqué more favorable to us, looking, for example, like this:
“We reiterate our condemnation of the illegal occupation of Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, Georgia as well as the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine and reaffirm our enduring support for Georgian and Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders. We maintain our commitment to supporting Georgia and assisting Ukraine in implementing its ambitious and necessary reform agenda. We recall that the continuation of sanctions is clearly linked to Russia’s failure to fully meet the obligations of the 16 August 2008 ceasefire agreement between Russia and Georgia as well as demonstrate complete implementation of its commitments in the Minsk Agreements and respect for Georgia’s and Ukraine’s sovereignty and we fully support the efforts of resolving the conflicts in Georgia within the Geneva format as well as the Normandy Format and of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for a solution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Should its actions so require, we also stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on Russia. We remain committed to support Russian civil society and to engage and invest in people-to-people contact.”
Amendments made to the original communiqué by us are in italics.
Unfortunately, due to all this, Russia’s perception that the abolition of international sanctions is only connected to its actions in Eastern Ukraine, have probably been strengthened. This will increase its resources for additional action on the occupied territories of Georgia and hence, only worsen our situation. This needs to be remedied.
Today, France took over the chairmanship of the G7. The situation must change for the following summit, and for this to happen it is necessary for the Georgian side to actively work with Ukrainian diplomacy and be more active in the G7 capitals, especially in Paris.