Russia is facing isolation from a political group that has lost influence in recent years as other countries play a growing role on the world stage.
Canada and other Group of Seven nations announced Monday that they had cancelled a planned G8 summit with Russia in Sochi. The next summit will be held in Brussels and will not include Russia, a move that effectively suspends Moscow from the club of industrialized nations because of its actions in Crimea.
Roland Paris, who teaches international security and governance at the University of Ottawa, said one of the G8's strengths has been its members' shared values. "To the extent that the G8 is going to be dealing with very sensitive questions of international security – at a time when Russia has acted in the way that it acted – [it] really raises the question about whether it belongs at that table," he said.
However, the decision to exclude Russia comes at a time when the G8's strength is already on the decline, raising questions about the impact that booting Russia can actually have. "The G7 itself is not nearly as relevant or as effective as it once was," said Lloyd Axworthy, who was Canada's foreign affairs minister when Russia was added to the group in 1998. "That's partly because the United States no longer has the dominant clout that it once had. And I really see the emergence of the G20 as a perhaps a more contemporary institution that can reflect the different, new emerging interests around the world."
At the same time, there are signs that members of the larger and increasingly influential G20 do not have the same interest in isolating Russia as nations that belong to the G7. On Monday, foreign ministers from the BRICS nations – all of which are also part of the G20 – issued a statement rejecting the use of sanctions and "hostile language" related to the crisis in Ukraine. The group – consisting of China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Russia – also suggested it would not support the idea of blocking Russian President Vladimir Putin from attending this year's G20 summit, which is set to be held in Brisbane, Australia.
Mr. Axworthy said the G8 should continue to isolate Russia as much as possible and work on building up Ukraine and supporting other countries on Russia's borders. But he said Canada will also need to determine quickly how it intends to move forward on co-operation with Russia at the Arctic Council, which is set to meet this week in Yellowknife.
When Russia was first added to the G8 in 1998, members were hopeful the change would see Russia agree to a common set of rules with other members. While there were differences of opinion within the G8 on a number of issues, including Kosovo's secession and, later, the conflicts in Libya and Syria, Russia showed that it was "prepared to work within the international framework on law," he said.
That willingness seems to have disappeared with Russia's actions in Crimea, Mr. Axworthy said. "We've just witnessed a major pivot on that in the last couple of weeks," he said. "And there's no point in having a member of a club that doesn't believe in its rules."
Prof. Paris said it will be important for the G7 to keep communications open in case Moscow moves to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine – even as it moves to isolate Russia economically and politically over its actions in Crimea.
"I think it will be very difficult to get past the annexation of Crimea. But what happens next could make matters much worse, or it could ease matters somewhat," he said. "The next phase will presumably involve a struggle over the political control of the rest of Ukraine."
With a report from Geoffrey York in Johannesburg