G7 ministers back Ukraine support, are suspicious of China

Pool via AP
Foreign ministers attend a G7 meeting in Muenster, Germany, on Friday.

MUENSTER, Germany (AP) — Top diplomats from the world’s major industrialized democracies on Friday rallied support for Ukraine in its resistance to Russia’s invasion, expressing “unwavering commitment” to Ukraine’s defense, and expressed suspicion of China’s increasing assertiveness amid a panoply of global crises.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations, wrapping up two days of talks in the historic western German city of Muenster, released a joint statement asserting common positions on Ukraine, Russia, China and recent developments in Iran and North Korea.

“We’re aligned, we’re united and we’re working together as never before,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

A year after warning Russia about the consequences of invading Ukraine, the G-7 ministers endorsed further punishments for the Kremlin, including setting a price cap for Russian oil exports in the coming weeks. They also pledged additional backing for Kyiv by creating a new way to assist with its reconstruction and to help other countries affected by the food and energy shortages exacerbated by the war.

“President [Vladimir] Putin bet that we wouldn’t back up our words with actions. We proved him wrong,” Blinken said, adding that G7 sanctions and export controls have “directly impacted Putin’s ability to wage war.”

“We reiterate our unwavering commitment to continue providing the financial, humanitarian, defense, political, technical, and legal support Ukraine needs to alleviate the suffering of its people and to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said.

The ministers accused Russia of “trying to terrorize the civilian population” of Ukraine by targeting critical power, water and other infrastructure and demanded an end to the war.

“We will continue to impose economic costs on Russia and on other countries, individuals or entities providing military support for Moscow’s war of aggression,” it said.

The G7 is made up of the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

As the meeting ended, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration boosted its military assistance to Ukraine by $400 million, bringing the U.S. contribution to more than $18.2 billion since Russia invaded Feb. 24.

The ministers also called out Iran for allegedly supplying weapons including drones to Russia and for a violent crackdown on antigovernment protesters. They condemned Iran’s “brutal and disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters and children” as well as Tehran’s “continued destabilizing activities in and around the Middle East.”

“All of that will draw consequences and the Iranian regime has to be aware of that,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We have made it very clear we will impose further sanctions, significant packages of sanctions.”

In addition, the G7 statement further condemned the recent escalation of tensions in Asia caused by North Korean missile launches and delivered a stern warning against a possible new nuclear test. “Any nuclear test or other reckless action must be met with a swift, united, and robust international response,” they said.

One senior U.S. official said the group had demonstrated “remarkable” unity on virtually all major issues despite often-competing domestic interests, particularly in regards to China’s growing economic clout and global ambitions, even as the leader of G7 host Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, visited Beijing.

The ministers said they sought “constructive cooperation with China, where possible and in our interest” in areas like climate change, clean energy and health but cautioned that Beijing must abide by global regulations, especially as it relates to Taiwan.

“These challenges can only be tackled successfully through cooperation within the rules-based international order,” the G7 said. “We remind China of the need to uphold the principles of the U.N. Charter on peaceful settlement of disputes and to abstain from threats, coercion, intimidation, or the use of force. We strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion.”

“The G7 stands together in defense of the rules-based international order,” Blinken said, referring to China and stressing that an understanding was reached about the need “to align our policies” in the face of “growing coercion” and unfair trade practices by Beijing.

“The convergence, the alignment on China, is increasingly strong and increasingly clear,” he said.

Yet Scholz was in Beijing on Friday, the first European and G7 leader to make the trip since the war in Ukraine began. Chinese investment in a major port in Germany has raised concerns in Washington and other capitals that China might gain a controlling interest in critical infrastructure in the heart of an allied country.

Scholz’s visit has drawn criticism due to China’s tacit support for Russia and for coming after Chinese leader Xi Jinping cemented his authoritarian rule at a Communist Party congress last month. But it reflects the importance of Germany’s trade ties with China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Despite the strong words, it remains unclear how much influence the G7 actually wields. Its warnings to Putin last December to stay out of Ukraine went unheeded and Xi is forging ahead with plans to reunify Taiwan with the mainland by force, if necessary.

In the meantime, Iran has ignored calls to return to a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, started to supply weapons to Russia and launched a major crackdown on domestic dissent. Similarly, North Korea has shunned appeals to return to nuclear negotiations and stepped up missile launches, raising fears of an open conflict.

In Germany, many noted the historic significance of the venue where the G7 ministers met: the room where the Treaty of Westphalia ending Europe’s bloody 30 Years War was signed in 1648.

Blinken referred to the 374-year-old document, saying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an attack on the concepts of national sovereignty and territorial integrity that many believe the centuries-old treaty established.

And, while chairing a meeting between her G7 counterparts and the foreign ministers of Kenya and Ghana, Baerbock said she had raised the bloc’s concerns “over the growing presence of Russian and Russia-affiliated security forces in Mali and elsewhere on the continent and called for accountability for all those responsible for human rights violations.”