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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Hails Creation of New 'G-8'

Government officials on Monday hailed the creation of a new "G-8" club of "the world's most influential nations" after President Boris Yeltsin took a seat at the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations summit in Naples over the weekend.


"A new organization was created yesterday," Economics Minister Alexander Shokhin told a press conference Monday in Moscow. "It's an informal club of the world's most influential nations called 'G-8'."


On Sunday Yeltsin sat down with the leaders of the other seven nations to discuss global political issues, becoming the first Russian or Soviet leader ever to participate directly in a G-7 summit.


While Shokhin acknowledged that Russia, because of its weak economy, has not yet been admitted as a fully fledged member of the group -- which includes the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada -- he stressed that at Sunday's talks Yeltsin was treated as an equal partner.


In communiques issued after the talks, the eight leaders called on Bosnia's warring sides to accept a international peace plan within 10 days or face punishment from the world community. They demanded that North Korea "provide total transparency" on its nuclear program and comply with nuclear non-proliferation obligations.


While Yeltsin sided with G-7 nations on those issues, he astonished Western leaders by saying Russian troops would not leave the Baltic state of Estonia by the agreed deadline of August 1994.


The Russian president stood by his decision not to withdraw the troops until Estonia stopped "discrimination" against ethnic Russians. But at the behest of President Bill Clinton, he agreed to meet with the president of Estonia to try to resolve the matter.


Yeltsin expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the summit, acknowledging that while economic problems still barred Russia from establishing itself as a major player in world markets, it had received more recognition as a great power than ever before.


"The Russian bear will not bang on an open door," Yeltsin said. "We will not seek full admission to G-7 until we deserve it, but we are pleased to be recognized as an equal democratic state."


Both Yeltsin and Shokhin said that the meeting in Naples was the first G-7 summit where Russia did not seek economic aid, only asking for greater trade freedom and increased access to IMF financial resources.


"The traditional schemes where we asked for aid in exchange for continued reform are a thing of the past," Shokhin said. "What we seek now are universal mechanisms of interaction."


Among such universal mechanisms Shokhin counted a chance for Russia to get credits from the International Monetary Fund beyond the $4 billion limit imposed by Russia's share in the IMF's charter capital.


He said the G-7 nations supported Russia's plea for increased access to IMF resources, though the final decision is up to the IMF. He added that if the increased access is granted, Russia will be able to receive an extra $4 billion in IMF credits in the near future.


Officials said Russia had been losing $3 billion a year due to Cold-War era trade restrictions.


"It's time for the West to realize that I am no longer wearing a red jacket and I haven't done so for three years," Yeltsin said. He added that he was "outraged" that even though Russia now has a free trade agreement with the European Union, countries outside Europe still trade with it as if it were a communist nation.


According to Shokhin, G-7 leaders supported lifting restrictions, though in the case of the United States the process would still take considerable time.


"They can't drop at once all the remaining 150 laws that classify us as a communist nation," Shokhin said.


Though Russia campaigned at the summit for the G-7 nations to recognize it as having a "transitional" rather than a state-controlled economy, the proposal was not universally approved because that would require significant changes in U.S. legislation which does not define a transitional economy.


"They might as well recognize us as a nation with a market economy -- that would make things easier," Shokhin said.


He stressed Russia's new role as a "lobbyist" for interests of the former Soviet republics before the major Western nations. He welcomed the Group's decision to give Ukraine $4.5 million in aid if the former Soviet country pursued more consistent economic reform.


"In the past few years we gave former Soviet republics $6 billion worth of aid through subsidized prices and trade privileges," Shokhin said. "It was an impossible burden for us. Besides, we were often accused of helping those nations out of imperialist ambitions, and increased Western aid for them would help us clear our relations of these charges."