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Bring Russia in from the cold to the G7 to handle China: Sharma

In comments that represent the strongest push within Australia to give Russia a seat at the global leadership table, Mr Sharma said the world’s major liberal democracies needed to “respect its strategic anxieties”.

In an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Mr Sharma said the G7 group of nations needed to be expanded into a G9 to include Russia and Australia.

Mr Sharma, Australia’s former ambassador to Israel, said the Soviet Union’s behaviour changed when China was brought back in from the cold after Nixon’s visit to the country in 1972, and the “challenges of today’s world are analogous”.

“To manage the rise of China, it is time to rehabilitate the strategic triangle and reshuffle the deck. This time, the actor which needs to be brought in from the cold is Russia,” Mr Sharma said.

“Russia, whilst still a global power, is today driven by insecurity, not ambition. Its internal challenges are significant. It has reason to fear a more powerful China on its borders at least as much as it fears the west.

“Russia has undoubtedly been a force for global disorder in recent years. But in the long term it is an ambitious and revanchist China, not a nostalgic Russia, which poses the larger threat to the global order.

“To effect such a triangle would require a bold act of statecraft, lead by the United States but also involving Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia and the other western allies.”

When Mr Trump last month announced his decision to invite Australia and Russia to an upcoming G7 meeting, the Morrison government said Australia’s position and views on Russia “are well known and won’t change” as a result of its participation in the forum. Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott famously threatened to “shirtfront” Mr Putin following the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine.

Mr Sharma said the legacy of two decades of mistrust between Russia and the west would not be easy to overcome, but the interests of each side should provide a strong basis for doing so.

The Wentworth MP said the west would need to provide reassurances to Russia that it would not seek to interfere in its politics and respect its strategic anxieties, and in return Russia needed to “cease interference in our own political systems”.

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“The triangle thus constructed would provide Russia the strategic reassurance and legitimacy
it craves. It would give the United States and its allies greater diplomatic and strategic options. And – just as it did for the Soviets – it will encourage the behaviour of China to moderate,” Mr Sharma said.

“The statecraft required is not easy, and the realpolitik underpinning it might be hard to
stomach. But the geopolitical challenge of our times requires new thinking and fresh
approaches.

“The unipolar moment of the United States is at an end. A ‘G2’ world has proven elusive. It is
time to construct a new order based on a sustainable balance of power.”

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