NEWS
03/24/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 05/23/2014 05:59 EDT

G7 leaders talk Ukraine crisis at Hague nuclear summit

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will sit down with his G7 colleagues tonight and one person will be conspicuously absent – Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The meeting will discuss Russia’s actions in Crimea, and whether that country should be permanently expelled from the G8.

Leading into tonight gathering, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for strong action against Russia, adding “we need to be prepared to take that action for the long term.”

This 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.

Cohesion on nuclear talks needed

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.

Soviet-era weapons

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.

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.

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