Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his fellow G7 leaders say they are suspending their participation in the Group of Eight until Russia “changes course.”
© — Photo by The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a question and answer session in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday.
In a joint statement, the G7 nations say they will instead meet without Russia.
The move is aimed at isolating Moscow as punishment for its annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
The G7 nations issued the statement following Monday’s emergency meeting in the Netherlands.
The leaders say they are ready to “intensify actions” against Russia if Moscow escalates the conflict further.
Ukraine Monday told its remaining troops in the Crimean peninsula to leave the Black Sea region, formally annexed by Russia last week, because it’s too dangerous to remain.
The gathering began at about 6:30 p.m. local time on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit, and went about a half hour longer than expected.
U.S. President Barack Obama was the first to arrive and was greeted by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at his official residence.
The G7 leaders joked and laughed together briefly before getting down to business — what to do about Russia’s aggression in eastern Europe amid the worst crisis for the region since the Cold War.
Earlier in the day, Harper said economic concerns will have to take a backseat as the West determines how to respond to Russian aggression.
“Within the context of Canadian foreign policy, we will do what we can to maximize the commercial opportunities for our firms,” the prime minister told a roundtable with Dutch business representatives.
“But we will not shape our foreign policy to commercial interests.”
When it comes to a global security crisis such as that unfolding in Ukraine, Harper said, “business people have to be aware that there may be risks to them and the government will take those risks, because at those points in times the government’s foreign and security policy priorities become paramount.”
Harper is the only G7 leader who has personally witnessed the devastation in Kyiv and spoken face-to-face with Ukraine’s new leadership.
Harper has called for a “complete reversal” of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has also warned long and loudly that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot be trusted.
He’s also expected to argue that Putin’s actions will spur similar brazen territory grabs if they go unpunished.