Déjà Vu Over Ukraine? 5 Years After Leaving G8, Russia's G20 Future in Question

The vote to expel Russia from the G20 may be vetoed by other members. One member has already lent support to Putin.
Saptarshi Basak

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the 2022 G20 Summit in Indonesia. 


(Photo: Namita Chauhan/The Quint)

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the 2022 G20 Summit in Indonesia.&nbsp;</p></div>

"My answer is yes, depends on the G20."

That was US President Joe Biden's response when asked whether Russia should be kicked out of the Group of Twenty (G20).

It is an intergovernmental forum comprising the European Union (Italy, France, and Germany are listed separately) and 16 other countries like the US, Russia, India, China, and Brazil among others.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted calls for the expulsion of the former, currently being led by President Vladimir Putin, from the G20.

These calls might be giving Putin a sense of déjà vu given that under his leadership, Russia quit the G8 in 2017 (now the G7) after he ordered the annexation of Crimea in 2014, which led to the cancellation of that year's summit.

In this explainer, we briefly answer a few questions. What is the history and relevance of the G20? What are the implications of Russia's expulsion? Does Russia have a friend that can prevent an expulsion?

The Significance of G20

The G20 forum was established in 1999 in response to the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The idea was that it will function like a bloc, bringing together the most industrialised and developing nations to ensure global stability in economics and global finance.

The first summit was held in 2008, in Washington DC. It has been organised annually ever since.

Experts agree that the G20 was instrumental in resolving the financial crisis of 2008, during which member states took "unprecedented and extraordinary action to avoid what undoubtedly would have been a global slump", according to political economist Will Hutton, writing for The Guardian in 2009.

Trade barriers were removed and the global financial system was reformed significantly.

According to the Council for Foreign Relations, the G20 nations account for:

  • Around 60 percent of the world's population

  • Around 80 percent of global economic output

  • Nearly 75 percent of global exports

The latest big decision taken by G20 leaders was in Rome in October last year, when they agreed upon a proposal to set a minimum tax rate of 15 percent on big businesses.

So, a crisis within the G20 is no small thing.

What if Russia Gets Expelled? 

Let's hear it from the Russians themselves.

"The G20 format is important, but in the current circumstances, when most of the participants are in a state of economic war with us, nothing terrible will happen," the Kremlin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday, 25 March.

He has a point. Consider all the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia by the US, the UK, the EU, Japan, and Australia among other nations.

The US has banned Russian oil imports. All Russian flights have been prohibited from flying over US, UK, EU, and Canadian airspace.

Western countries have frozen the Russian central bank's assets to stop it from using its $630 billion of foreign currency reserves. Additionally, the plug has been pulled on Nord Stream 2, the 1,230 kilometer gas pipeline between Russia and Germany that is, if reactivated, considered to be a cash cow for the Kremlin.

These sanctions have already started to cripple the Russian economy. Therefore, experts are yet to agree on how exactly Russia's expulsion from the G20 will make it suffer any more than it already is.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that Russia had faced a similar situation before, exactly eight years ago.


Putin's Déjà vu

On 24 March 2014, seven members of the G8 cancelled the planned summit that was supposed to be held in Sochi, Russia, after Putin ordered the annexation of Crimea. Russia, however, wasn't immediately expelled.

The G8 had started out as the G6 in 1975 with the follwing members, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US. Canada was added in 1976, making it the G7, and Russia in 1997, making it the G8.

The idea was to bring together a coalition of the wealthiest liberal democracies.

On 13 January 2017, the Kremlin announced its permanent withdrawal from the G8 before it could get expelled for its actions in Crimea three years prior.

What is noteworthy is that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said at the time that Russia's exit from the G8 would not count for much because "all the economic and financial questions are decided in G20, and G8 has the purpose of existence as the forum of dialogue between the leading western countries and Russia".

Now, however, we have Peskov, who says that "nothing terrible will happen", because most G20 members are already waging an economic war against Russia.

Whose word should we take? We'll find out soon enough, because the Russian president reportedly plans to attend the next G20 summit in Indonesia that will be held later this year.

Russia's China Option

Russia's expulsion, however, may not be so easy, because the vote to expel could be vetoed by another G20 member. Indeed, one member has already extended support.

That nation, to no one's surprise, is China.

Earlier this week, on 23 March, China called Russia an "important member" of the G20 and stated that "no member has the right to expel another country."

"The G20 is the main forum for international economic cooperation," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters, as quoted by Reuters.

China has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and Washington has even highlighted its concerns about Beijing possibly aiding Moscow in its brutal assault on Kyiv. You can read more about the China-Russia camaraderie here.

In conclusion, the G20 is important, but there are doubts about how much of a difference Russia's expulsion will make to its economy, given the current state of western sanctions against the Kremlin and the exodus of large companies from the country.

At the same time, expulsion may not happen at all, thanks to the Chinese. In that case, all the chatter around kicking the Russians out of the G20 to punish them for their actions in Ukraine, is nothing but a lot of hullabaloo.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Become a Member to unlock
  • Access to all paywalled content on site
  • Ad-free experience across The Quint
  • Early previews of our Special Projects

Published: undefined

Read More