In a surprise display of solidarity, the leaders of the G7 issued a stern warning to Vladimir Putin: quit meddling in Ukraine, or face more sanctions. The relevant part of the G7 declaration reads like so:
We call on all sides to fully implement the Minsk agreements including the Package of Measures for their implementation signed on 12 February 2015 in Minsk, through the established Trilateral Contact Group and the four working groups. We are concerned by the recent increase in fighting along the line of contact; we renew our call to all sides to fully respect and implement the ceasefire and withdraw heavy weapons. We recall that the duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia’s complete implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty. They can be rolled back when Russia meets these commitments. However, we also stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase cost on Russia should its actions so require. We expect Russia to stop trans-border support of separatist forces and to use its considerable influence over the separatists to meet their Minsk commitments in full.
Some European leaders have already threatened to increase sanctions should a new offensive in Ukraine materialize, so this does not represent a huge change in policy for the EU (as several Russian news sources were quick to point out). Nevertheless it is a good sign to see Italy, one of the countries thought to be wavering on sanctions, formally signing on to this language—especially with EU leaders expected to vote on extending existing sanctions through the end of the year later this month.
The declaration is most notable, however, for Japan having joined the chorus of voices condemning Russia’s moves in Ukraine. The Financial Times:
Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, told the summit that Tokyo was concerned about protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and opposing the change of borders by force, according to Japanese and EU officials. His new-found resolve seems to be driven at least partly by China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, where its claims to disputed islands have put it at loggerheads with other states in the region.
“We are concerned by current conflicts which indicate an erosion of respect for international law and of global security,” said the G7 in a clear reference to tensions far beyond Ukraine – in the Middle East, and north Africa, as well as East Asia.
(Perhaps in a fit of pique, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the speeding up of construction of military and civilian infrastructure on the Kuril islands, which remain an unresolved territorial dispute with Japan.)
How much these kinds of threats actually reach the Kremlin, which now has to balance its politics with appearing strong at home, is anyone’s guess. But the reality of international isolation has to be setting in.