Russia's expulsion from Group of Eight is no big deal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 5:08am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 5:08am

Being expelled from a private club of rank and exclusivity is usually a matter of shame. Russia should, presumably, feel dishonoured for its ejection from the Group of Eight most-industrialised nations over its seizing control of Crimea, particularly as it was to host the next meeting of leaders at the Winter Olympics city of Sochi. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was unperturbed, though, not seeing the end of the partnership as a problem. Nor should he, given that with the rise of more globally representative organisations like the Group of 20 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum, the G8 has become increasingly anachronistic and irrelevant.

Without Russia, the grouping reverts back to the G7 - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. But the inclusion of Russia in 1998 was never a comfortable fit, given that membership is based on member states being democracies and having highly developed economies. The nation had neither a liberalised economy nor Western-style democracy at the time, although there were high hopes that its addition would bring about both. President Vladimir Putin's increasingly autocratic style was disconcerting; Moscow's decision to annex Crimea was the last straw.

Until the emergence of the G20 in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis, the G8 was the premier forum for leaders from the world's major economies to discuss important international issues. But the Western focus and failure to include or reflect the views of vast emerging economies led to it appearing irrelevant. Its credibility has been further undermined by an inability to deliver on ambitious commitments. The G20, including China and India, has shown itself to be more capable, responsive and representative.

Russia is too important a country to freeze out of dialogue on significant issues. Its membership of the G20 will ensure continued discussion. Growing strength and prominence, perhaps backed by institutionalisation, will give the G20 the credibility and clout to resolve problems that the G8 never had.