Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his intention to “strongly oppose” Russia from rejoining the Group of Seven (G7) nations, as long as Vladimir Putin serves as president of the country.
“I don’t think Russia under Vladimir Putin belongs in the G7, period. Canada would very, very strongly oppose Putin ever sitting around the table again. It would require consensus to bring Russia back, and that consensus will just not happen,” said PM Harper during an exclusive interview with AP.
Russia is deliberately trying to be a strategic rival
PM Harper emphasized that it is difficult to work with Russia because of its deliberate oppositions to the good things, which the G7 is trying to achieve in the world.
According to PM Harper, “Russia is more often than not trying deliberately to be a strategic rival, to deliberately counter the good things we’re trying to achieve in the world.”
He added that they were dealing with Pres. Putin whose mindset was that the Cold War has never ended. “I’ve got to fight to change the ending somehow. I don’t think there is any way under this leader Russia will ever change,” said PM Harper.
Last year, the G7 suspended Russia from due to the Ukraine crisis. The G7 did not rule out the possibility that it will be allowed to rejoin the group. It was the first time in 17 years that Russia was not present at the G7 summit last summer, which was supposed to be held in Sochi. The G7 postponed the meeting after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which was considered by Western nations as illegal.
Sanctions against Russia
U.S. President Barack Obama will be joining the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and United Kingdom during the upcoming G7 summit. The leaders of the industrialized nations will meet in Germany. Pres. Barack Obama is expected to encourage its allies in Europe to continue to impose sanctions against Russia.
Last year, the European Union and the United States imposed new sanctions against Russia following its annexation of Crimea. The U.S. sanctioned major Russian companies including Rosneft, Novatek, and Gazprom.
During a conference with journalists, Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser of strategic communications for Pres. Obama said it was very important to maintain the sanctions against Moscow. He explained that they “continue to see very concerning Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.”
He emphasized that keeping the sanctions is necessary so that it will not be perceived as one-time punishments that can be waited out by countries that continue to violate international law and international norms.
On Wednesday, at least eight people were killed and 90 others were injured after Kiev forces bombed the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. According to Moscow, Kiev violated the Minsk Agreement.
Pres. Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov said the new tension in Ukraine is connected with the upcoming EU summit, which will be held in Brussels on June 25-26.
U.S. is trying to change the political leadership in Russia
Russia’s Foreign Ministry commented that the United States is trying to change the political leadership in their country, and it is” twisting the arms” of its allies to maintain an “anti-Russian front.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said, “Behind the formally-declared aim to make us alter our position toward Ukraine, [we] see the [US] plan to form the social and economic conditions to change the leadership in Russia.”
Ryabkov pointed out that Western countries want to punish Russia for the “free will of people in Crimea and Sevastopol” to join Russia, which was the result of a referendum in March.
NATO forces intensified their military exercises in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe—along the Russian border since the annexation of Crimea. According to PM Harper, Moscow strengthened its long-range bomber patrols near the North American airspace.
PM Harper said Russia is a “country that has shown willingness to invade its neighbors, to actually seize territory that does not belong to it. I don’t think we should take this escalation of hostile military posture lightly. It needs to be treated seriously. ”
The AP learned from a senior Canadian official that there were 52 Russian patrols last year, up from 23 patrols in each over the past two years.