It’s official. The Group of Eight has become the Group of Seven, with Russia unceremoniously dumped to the curb in the face of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Practically, this means little. The G-8 has always been an informal organization, and the globalization of the past quarter-century has further diminished the group as a forum for global economic policy-making. In its stead the G-20, which includes such emerging economies as Brazil, China, and India, took the reins with its 2008 Washington summit in the face of the global financial crisis.
Combined with the IMF and the World Bank, there is little practical economic role for the G-8 to play. Where it can still play a role is on matters of cooperative security. The decision to include Russia in 1998 was a symbol of the G-7’s hopes for Russia: economic liberalization and westward movement toward a unified Europe. With Mr. Putin’s vision for a reestablishment of the Soviet sphere of influence through a strengthened Russia and Eurasian Union, these hopes are now naïve. And with the latest, boldest assertion of Russia’s sphere of influence through the seizure of Crimea, there is no use in maintaining the façade of a broad forum of cooperation between Russia and the liberal democracies of Western Europe, North America, and Japan.
Matters of true emergency, like Iran’s nuclear program, will remain the purview of the Security Council; on other matters, the agenda of the G-7 nations simply does not align with Mr. Putin’s. And the G-7 will return to its previous status as a forum for the leaders of the largest developed democracies, aligned completely with the North Atlantic Council. While this does not constitute the great global forum that was envisioned in 1998, that possibility was scuttled long ago by Mr. Putin, and the G-7 will continue to act as a meaningful forum, though not a grand one.