Putin Shouldn't Be At the G-8 Summit

Source: The Wall Street Journal
By Jesse Helms. Sen. Helms is the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Date: July 19, 2001


This week in Genoa, Italy, the seven leaders of the G-7 democracies (the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan) will meet with their Russian counterpart in what is now known as the annual G-8 Summit. Genoa will mark the 10th anniversary of these summits, and it is time to reconsider the G-8 forum as an element of the West's policy toward Russia.

There is good reason to ask: Why has President Vladimir Putin been granted the honor and privilege of standing with the G-7? The summit's purpose is to bring together the leading industrial democracies to promote common values and interests. The G-7's track record is one of sustained and substantial cooperation over nearly three decades.

The Soviet Union was first invited to participate in a G-7 summit in 1991. The G-7 recognized that the Soviet Union, much like Russia today, was a kleptocracy whose collapsed economy in no way had the magnitude or the rule of law necessary to stand as an equal.

The intended purpose of the decision to engage the Kremlin in this forum was to reward and reinforce what was then perceived to be the determination of Mikhail Gorbachev and later President Boris Yeltsin to reform and to democratize their respective countries and thereby to foster cooperation with the West.

Today, nearly a decade later, it is clear that Russia has failed miserably to meet those goals. In particular, Mr. Putin shows little or no commitment to the political values and foreign-policy interests that the G-8 summits were intended to promote.

Under the Putin leadership, the Russian press has once again felt the jackboot of repression, religious freedom has been curtailed, arms-control treaty obligations remain both unfulfilled and violated, and the security of Georgia and Ukraine has been threatened.

Moreover, President Putin baldly disregards the commitments he made a year ago at the G-8 Summit in Okinawa. Instead of acting "urgently and effectively to prevent and resolve armed conflict," as he had promised in the Okinawa Communique, he has continued Russia's war on the Chechen people.

If G-7 leaders intend to celebrate Slobodan Milosevic's recent detention in The Hague, they should not forget that the Putin war against Chechnya has been far more savage and devastating than the destruction Milosevic wrought on Kosovo.

Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in Kosovo is responsible for at least 10,000 deaths and the illegal detention and torture of several thousand Albanians, while Mr. Putin's bloodthirsty war against Chechnya has caused the deaths of more than 30,000 noncombatants, the dislocation of 600,000 civilians, and the illegal incarceration of 20,000 Chechens. (There have been countless reports of rape, torture and summary executions committed by Russian forces.) This carnage was inflicted on a Chechen population that, in 1999, amounted to just one million people. Today, the vicious Putin war in Chechnya continues unabated.

In Okinawa last year, the G-8 leaders, including Mr. Putin, said they "welcome[d] the reinforcement of global regimes to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems." But Russia continues to transfer dangerous weapons technologies to rogue states, including Iran, which recently received from Russia advanced conventional weapons and materials that can be used in its nuclear weapons programs.

In Genoa, the G-7 leaders should underscore their commitment to support democratic reform in Russia, but also articulate conditions that Mr. Putin must fulfill before he can expect to be invited to future G-8 summits. These should include: (1) a genuine effort to end the war in Chechnya peacefully; (2) respect for the sovereignty of Russia's neighbors; (3) a serious effort to curb the proliferation of missile technologies and weapons of mass destruction; and, by no means least, (4) respect for fundamental human rights.

Until President Putin meets these conditions, he is far from deserving of the political prestige and influence that come from standing as an equal with George W. Bush, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, Gerhard Schroeder and Junichiro Koizumi.

Denying him the legitimacy bestowed through participation in the G-8 forum would not isolate Russia. There are numerous other multilateral and bilateral meetings through which the West can engage Russia. But granting Mr. Putin this special privilege sadly undercuts those in Russia who are truly struggling to promote freedom, liberty and the rule of law. Shouldn't they be the ones invited to Genoa instead of Mr. Putin?


© 2007 Chechen Republic Online