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G7 to ban import of Russian gold as bombs hit Kyiv kindergarten

G7 Leaders Summit (UKinUSA/WikiCommons)

The G7 summit that began Sunday in Germany is expected to seek ways to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine and means to moderate the war’s impacts on other countries—something political and economic alliances have played an outsized role in.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden and the other G7 leaders will announce that their nations will ban the import of Russian gold, a senior administration told reporters Sunday. The precious metal is the country’s second-largest export after energy.

“We have to stay together because [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin has been counting on, from the beginning, that somehow NATO and the G7 would splinter,” Biden said ahead of a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Cholz. “But we haven’t, and we’re not going to.”

As the conference kicked off Sunday, Russia launched a volley of missiles at Kyiv, hitting a residential building and a kindergarten, according to Andriy Yermak, the head of the office of the president of Ukraine. The strikes killed one person, a rare casualty in the Ukrainian capital during recent weeks in which the fighting has largely happened in the eastern Donbas region.

“The #G7 states should respond to new Russian terror attacks on [Ukrainian] cities,” Yermak tweeted. “Sanctions should be more aggressive. We appreciate embargo on [Russian Federation] gold exports, but gas embargo should be included in the new [European Union] sanctions package.”

The gold ban is the latest in a long list of sanctions enacted since Russia invaded in February.

“Taking this step cuts off that capacity and, again, is an ongoing illustration of the types of steps the G7 can take collectively to continue to isolate Russia and cut it off from the global economy,” the senior administration official said.

On Monday, Biden will participate in a G7 session on Ukraine, according to a White House schedule. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to address the gathering remotely.

The senior administration official declined to say whether G7 officials will announce other sanctions at the summit.

“We think that the step forward that’s being taken with gold is a very important illustration of the additional steps that we expect to be taken now and in the weeks ahead,” the official said.

Nations around the globe have been sending military support to Ukraine, but the war has had far-reaching consequences beyond the typical military sphere that have required countries to leverage their economic and industrial resources. Sanctions have played an important role in punishing Russia for the invasion, European nations are preparing to absorb millions of Ukrainian refugees, and blocked ports mean grain shortages are affecting nations from the Middle East to Africa and beyond.

Many of these problems have been addressed by non-military alliances like the G7 or European Union, who have played an outsized role in responding to the conflict, said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative.

“Ukraine has sort of forced these organizations to work in a much more intertwined fashion because the security crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s tragic invasion is certainly an issue for NATO…but it also has implications for human security…and of course the sanctions,” Skaluba said. “We absolutely need the EU and G7 to be in lockstep.”

Individually, G7 nations have delivered billions of dollars’ worth of military aid to Ukraine, but the group has also taken significant action together. In May, members of the G7 agreed to send nearly $20 billion to support the Ukrainian economy during the war. The group also announced sanctions against Russia that target everything from state-run media to energy to specific oligarchs or members of the Russian military.

“The G7 has done something and proved its relevance in a way that was very much in question for over a decade,” Josh Lipski, director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center, said on a press call previewing the trip. “These are things that people thought the G7 would not be able to do and certainly would not be able to coordinate on. So they prove their relevance and their importance, and I think it casts a whole new light on this G7 meeting. It makes it even more important than it typically is.”

The European Union has also played an important role helping Ukraine, including providing money to help refugees and support the country’s economy. Early on in the conflict, the European Union integrated Ukraine into its energy grid and just last week, took the first step towards formally accepting Kyiv’s application to join the alliance. The EU has also used its European Peace Facility to give 2 billion euros to help members replace arms and gear they send to Ukraine.

Stepping into this defense role is less of a snap reaction driven by Ukraine, and more a case of defense-focused infrastructure that’s been honed over nearly a decade finally getting used, said Max Bergmann, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. That includes the European Defense Fund, which encourages members to partner on defense research and development; the European Defense Agency, which facilitates broader defense collaboration between the 26 member nations; and the European Peace Facility, which was just established in March 2021 and has been critical to arming Ukraine.

Experts are hopeful that this closer coordination among the G7, European Union, and NATO on defense will last beyond the conflict. With many European Union member states committing to boost defense spending and having to backfill munitions and equipment sent to Ukraine, Bergmann said he hoped the EU would coordinate among its member states and coordinate acquisitions to lock in fair prices and quick deliveries for all its members, not just those who can spend the most.

“The U.S. always had a talking point about no duplication of NATO…[but] NATO doesn’t have money….It depends on member states to spend on their own defense,” Bergmann said. “The role the EU can play is making sure that coordination happens really early on in defense acquisition.”

After the G7 summit concludes on Tuesday, Biden will travel to Madrid for a NATO summit, where leaders are expected to approve a new document that will set the alliance’s strategy for the next decade, including how to defend the alliance’s eastern front against a more confrontational Russia and how to handle the growing threat posed by China.

“Oftentimes, the G7 and NATO summits are connected, and bleed together,” Bergmann said. “It’s sort of one conversation. The G7 can help set the table for some of the progress to then happen on the military side.”


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