Prime Minister Stephen Harper is heading into next week’s Group of Seven meeting seeking to convince his counterparts to speak with the same degree of conviction on Russia, amid concern in Ottawa that not all members are publicly opposing Moscow with the same intensity.
The Canadian government wants Russia to face clear consequences over its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region, and expects the future of Moscow’s membership in the Group of Eight will be discussed at a G7 meeting on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague.
“Our response needs to be firm and it needs to be co-ordinated,” a senior Canadian government official said. “You can expect the Prime Minister will articulate the view that we have be steadfast in being strong in how we respond as a group of countries and have to stand our ground.”
With Moscow signing a treaty to absorb Crimea and threatening retaliation for Monday’s round of sanctions, the West reiterated its rebuke Tuesday and considered next steps.
On a visit to Poland, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called Moscow’s action a “land grab” and stressed Washington’s commitment to defending NATO allies on Russian borders. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow against any incursion into eastern Ukraine. Britain suspended military cooperation with Russia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who spoke Tuesday with U.S. President Barack Obama, said Russia was guilty of repeatedly breaking international law. And the U.S. and EU have said future punitive measures against Russia could also affect the economy, energy and arms contracts.
Canada, for its part, on Tuesday added 17 names to its list of Russian and Ukrainian officials hit with travel and economic sanctions, just as Russia’s ambassador to Ottawa scoffed at Western measures noting his country’s close links to Asia.
“President [Vladimir] Putin continues to defy the international community, and until a diplomatic solution is reached, we will consider further actions and repercussions,” Mr. Harper, who will this weekend become the first G7 leader to visit Ukraine since the crisis erupted four months ago, said in a statement.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told reporters in Montreal that Russia “absolutely” faces the possibility of expulsion from the G8, though he declined to speculate on a timeline, saying, “I think that’ll be a decision for the G7 leaders.”
“You’ll recall at the last G8 meeting in northern Ireland, Prime Minister Harper … referred to the G8 as the ‘G7 +1,’ ” he said. “And I think we see the wisdom of those observations today.”
There was some measure of confusion Tuesday about Russia’s status in the club. After the Associated Press reported that France’s foreign minister said Moscow had been suspended, the French ministry backtracked and instead reiterated that G7 leaders had suspended preparations for the G8 Summit planned for Russia. U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, meantime, told his parliament the West should contemplate a new state of relations “in which institutions such as the G8 are working without Russia.”
The Russian names added to Canada’s sanctions list include the deputy speakers of both parliamentary houses, the chairman of the security committee and commanders of military districts. The expanded Ukrainian roster includes Crimean government leaders and the former head of the Ukrainian navy. Mr. Baird noted the government won’t hesitate to add more to the list.
“I don’t think anything is severe enough when a ruler in the Kremlin tries to redraw the borders of Europe in the post-Cold War era,” he said.
With a report from Kim Mackrael in Ottawa and Reuters
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