G7 leaders have agreed to hold their own summit in Brussels in June instead of attending the G8 summit with Russia in Sochi, according to a French diplomatic source.
This update comes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with his G7 colleagues in The Hague — conspicuously excluding Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Harper had pressed the G7 to expel Russia from the G8 and urged his European colleagues to take a tougher stand against Moscow in response to its actions in Crimea.
Leading into tonight's gathering, Harper called for strong action against Russia, adding, "We need to be prepared to take that action for the long term.”
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In a meeting with Dutch business leaders, Harper said Canada is now practising a more "economic diplomacy."
But he said that changes when security issues trump economic ones, like the crisis in Ukraine.
"Within the context of Canadian foreign policy, we will do what we can to maximize the commercial opportunities for our firms. But we will not shape our foreign policy to commercial interests," Harper said.
"Business people have to be aware there may be risks to them and the government will take those risks because, at those points in time, the government's foreign and security priorities become paramount."
"When you have something like a military occupation of a country by another country this is not something that we can subordinate to economic interests. These have very serious long-term implications for all of us."
The prime minister also wrapped up talks on a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the 28-member European Union while in The Hague. The SPA will focus on increasing political dialogue and cooperation between Canada and the EU, including matters of crisis management and security.
Cohesion on nuclear talks needed
The G7 meeting is happening on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was asked if he thought the Ukrainian crisis would overshadow the summit but he said he encourages side meetings like this one.
“They are not interfering with the schedule of the Nuclear Security Summit, because in the setup of the summit, we already envisioned that leaders would make use of the fact that they were brought together in The Hague to discuss issues,” he told reporters.
Rutte added he knew Putin was not attending the summit a year ago when the two met in Russia for an economic meeting.
Some of the people watching the nuclear summit say the two issues are linked.
John Barrett is the president of the Canadian Nuclear Association.
He said Russia is a key player in enhancing global nuclear security. He pointed to the United Nations Security Council, and its efforts to work with Iran and its nuclear program.
“Russia is a key player in that. We need to maintain a sort of cohesion within that group to address Iran, to address North Korea,” Barrett said.
Kelsey Davenport, analyst with the Washington think tank the Arms Control Association, agrees and said Russia is scheduled to host the G-8 summit this year in Sochi.
Work for the meeting has been suspended, however, and the meeting itself is in jeopardy.
Davenport said on the agenda for that meeting was talks about stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
“I’m concerned that some of that very important work could fall victim to the politics of the countries involved,” Davenport said in an interview with CBC.
She added that Ukraine is a good example of why the summit’s work on nuclear security is so important.
'If that material was still in Ukraine right now I think there would be significant concerns about the security, that that material could be stolen or diverted, or perhaps used for malicious purposes.' - Kelsey Davenport, analyst at the Arms Control Association
Davenport pointed out that just last year Ukraine handed over the last of its Soviet-era nuclear weapons to Russia.
“If that material was still in Ukraine right now I think there would be significant concerns about the security, that that material could be stolen or diverted, or perhaps used for malicious purposes,” she said.
Barrett says there are many global efforts on nuclear issues where Russia plays a vital role, and that work could be jeopardized if Russia becomes too isolated.
“The fact that Crimea is resulting in a bit of stepping back from one another, this could play into some of the other areas where we collaborate on issues of security,” Barrett said.