Can McCain Eject Russia from the G8?

mccain050508.jpgAn aggressively negative article from McClatchy argues that Sen. John McCain’s proposal to remove Russia from the G8 won’t get very far in reality. OK, fine, but I’m not convinced of the wisdom behind the reasoning – there’s no need to tip-toe around Russia for fear of returning to “Cold War” tensions – let’s avoid that heap of memes.

The Group of Eight, or G-8, as it’s popularly known, makes decisions by consensus, so no single nation can kick out another. Most experts say the six other countries — Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Canada — would never agree to toss Russia, given their close economic ties to their neighbor. A senior U.S. official who deals with Russia policy said that even Moscow would have to approve of its own ouster, given how the G-8 works. “It’s not even a theoretical discussion. It’s an impossible discussion,” said the senior official, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. “It’s just a dumb thing.”

Aside from that, many wonder whether McCain’s suggestion would be wise policy. They fear that if McCain were elected and followed through on an attempt to toss Russia from the group, it could anger and isolate Russia, which has been increasingly assertive on the world stage, autocratic within its borders and is the second-largest producer of the hydrocarbons that feed the world’s energy needs.”In Europe, there’s very little support … for a policy like that,” said Stephen Larrabee, an expert on Europe and Russia at the RAND think tank. “It’s too late in the game to try and oust Russia.”The proposal also seemed at odds with the theme of McCain’s speech, which promised a less unilateral approach to world affairs than the Bush White House has pursued. That could reflect tension between two Republican foreign-policy camps vying for influence in McCain’s campaign: the pragmatic realists and the hard-line neo-conservatives — with the neo-cons ascendant for now in Russia policy.Randy Scheunemann, the foreign policy director for McCain’s campaign, acknowledged that “there would be very vigorous discussion” within the G-8 of a proposal to exclude Russia. But, he said, Russia was “on a different political and economic trajectory” when it joined the group a decade ago, and he said it’s unlikely that the same invitation would be extended today.