Skip to main content

In this March 21, 2014, photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin signs bills making Crimea part of Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow.Sergei Chirikov/The Associated Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has demonstrated Canada's worth as a member of the G8, by his forthright advocacy of the suspension of Russia from the group, in the light – or rather the shadow – of Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and threats against Ukraine.

Canada has often been classified as a "middle power." It was admitted in 1976, a year after a G6 group of the six leading industrialized powers took shape. But in the Ukrainian crisis, this middle power has shown its prescience; Mr. Harper has been ahead of his colleagues, not only in proposing Russia's suspension, but also in questioning its place in the otherwise democratic G8. Last year, as the group leaned one way on the Syrian civil war and Russia went in the opposite direction, he correctly observed, "I don't think we should fool ourselves. This is the G7 plus one."

The presence at the G7 meeting in 1991 of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet president, and in 1994 of Boris Yeltsin, the Russian president, was a serious gesture of hope for a liberal-democratic Russia that might become a democracy, a modern economy and an observer of the rule of law – including international law.

All that may eventually come to pass, but as yet Russia remains an emerging economy, and a non-democracy run by oligarchic tycoons. It is not a member of the OECD, the larger club of established economies, though countries such as Mexico and the Slovak Republic have been accepted in the past couple of decades.

At this point, it is hardly realistic to expect or even hope that Russia will make any concessions on Crimea in the foreseeable future. But the West needs to send a clear message to Mr. Putin not to further destabilize Ukraine, or meddle in any of the now independent, former Soviet states. General Philip Breedlove, the American commander of NATO forces in Europe, is right to draw attention to the "very, very sizable and very, very ready" Russian forces close to the Ukrainian-Russian border.

In these circumstances, Mr. Harper's vigorous stance – a departure from Canada's customary propensity to "quiet diplomacy" – is a welcome and substantial contribution to the current state of the world. It's time for the G7 to suspend its plus-one.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this editorial said incorrectly that Italy joined the G7 in 1976. In fact , it was 1975.