Russia was deprived of the consecration of a “G” country years ago, but Vladimir Putin is omnipresent at the G7 summit meeting in Elmau. The President obviously made sure of that.

It’s been nine years, pretty much exactly, since Vladimir Putin last represented a “G”. Even then, at the G8 summit on Lough Erne, it became apparent that Russia’s president took very different positions from Western leaders.

How can the bloody civil war in Syria be ended? Some wanted dictator Bashar al-Assad to lay down his arms, others didn’t want that – and even defended arms deliveries to the regime beforehand. In the end, Northern Ireland agreed on a poor, because demonstrative, final declaration. The result was a “heartfelt stalemate,” as the New York Times headlined at the time.

A year later, the demonstrative cordiality was over. Russia was deprived of the consecration of a “G” nation, the seven leading industrial nations excluded Putin from their ranks in 2014 in view of the illegal annexation of Crimea. A “turning point” later, nothing has changed: President Putin is not at the G7 summit in Elmau, Bavaria. And yet omnipresent.

This is of course due, on the one hand, to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. But also, on the other hand, the numerous disruptive signals that Putin sends to the alliance during the summit meeting, which wants to demonstrate unity and determination in the fight against Russia. Of course, one is related to the other.

Vladimir Putin talks at the G7 summit

The first message reached the G7 even before the summit began: Russia wants to transfer Iskander-type ground missiles to Belarus, which can also be equipped with nuclear-capable missiles. Putin promised the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko at a meeting in Saint Petersburg. The transfer will take place in the next few months, Putin said on Saturday, according to the Interfax state agency.

Russia would thus involve the neighboring country (even) more deeply in its course of war, most recently Ukraine reported massive rocket fire from Belarusian territory. This cannot be verified independently. But obviously Putin’s announcement met an unprepared G7, which could only express their serious concern in a joint statement.

Carl Bildt, at least, does not want to see it as a coincidence that at the beginning of the conference on Sunday, after around three weeks, residential areas in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv were again shelled. The former Prime Minister of Sweden wrote on Twitter that it was difficult not to see the attacks as a “deliberate escalation”. The current Co-Chairman of the European Council on Foreign Relations sees this as “a signal for today’s G7 meeting”.

At least the announcement by the Kremlin that Putin wanted to take part in the G20 summit in Indonesia in November should not have been a coincidence. The official invitation was received in the Kremlin and answered positively, said an adviser to the president. It is still unclear whether Putin could attend the meeting in person or via video link. The possible appearance poses a dilemma for the Western alliance, which military expert Carlo Masala describes as follows: “Don’t take part and snub the host Indonesia, or take part and disavow yourself.” That puts the other summit participants in a “dilemma,” Masala said on Twitter.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) commented on his own participation with corresponding tight lips. This will be decided “shortly before departure,” he said. However, cooperation among the 20 leading industrialized and emerging countries is important, the Chancellor added, referring to the Indian G20 presidency next year. “We must not torpedo the G20,” emphasized Scholz. Also piquant: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, as the organizer of the G20 meeting, also attended the G7 summit as one of the guests – at the invitation of Chancellor Scholz, who is trying to reduce the Russian sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, for example.

While the world is still watching the G7 summit in Elmau, Putin has set out for his own summit. On Tuesday, the President will first travel to Central Asian Tajikistan, then on to Turkmenistan, where he will take part in a summit meeting with the other Caspian countries (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Turkmenistan) on Wednesday.

It is Putin’s first (known) trip abroad since the Russian invasion of Ukraine – and may be an attempt to demonstrate that Russia is not completely isolated. Putin is also likely to explore options with the states, some of which belong to the Russian military alliance CSTO, to mitigate the consequences of Western sanctions against Russia.

“It’s also important to tell him to his face what we think of him”

The G7 announced a lot of this in Elmau. For example, the access of Russia’s military industry to Western technology is to be “further restricted”, and the group also announced targeted sanctions against those responsible for war crimes. In addition, the states also want to examine a price cap for Russian oil in order to deprive Moscow of revenue for financing the war of aggression.

It remains to be seen whether there will be a – perhaps even personal – meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in November. At least EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had not ruled out sitting down with Putin on Sunday evening on ZDF. “It’s also important to tell him to his face what we think of him,” she said. “And we have to think very carefully about whether we paralyze the entire G20.” You are not advocating it. The G20 are “far too important a body” for that.