While speaking to reporters at the White House this morning, before leaving for the G7 summit, President Trump expressed his desire for Russia to be reinstated in the G7.
“It used to be the G8 because Russia was in it. And now Russia’s not in it. Now I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare. If Hillary got in I think Putin is probably going, “Man, I wish Hillary won” because you see what I do. But, with that being said… Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend and it is up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting. It should be a part of it. You know, whether you like it or not and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run. And in the G7 which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 8, 2018
Russia was suspended in 2014 from the group of industrialized nations, then known as the G8, for its invasion and annexation of the Crimea. That invasion was the first of its kind since World War II.
As reported by CNN at the time, the G8 members condemned Russia’s aggression.
“International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force,” the statement said. “To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built. We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution.
“We also strongly condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations.”
Russia’s defiant response in 2014 was to note that they saw no great misfortune in being kicked out of the G8 and stated the G8 did not provide membership cards and by definition cannot remove anyone. CNN reports that when asked this week about what would be necessary for Russia to return Crimea to the Ukraine, Putin answered, “there are no such conditions and there can never be.”
Since 2014, the US and the EU have been united in the necessity of pressuring Russia via sanctions over its military aggression towards its neighbors which continue to this day. However, Politico reports that, after Trump’s comments, Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, tweeted his agreement in a sharp break with the EU’s position.
“I agree with the President @: Russia should be back in the G8. It’s in everyone’s interest.”
President Trump’s comments are sure to further inflame tensions among the G7 nations who are already publicly at odds with him. Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister, has said, “This is not about the American people. We have to believe that at some point their common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the US administration.” Politico quotes French President Emmanuel Macron as saying, “Maybe the American president does not mind being isolated today,” Macron said. “We do not mind being six if need be.”
Criticisms of US tariffs led to President Trump tweeting angrily about Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau in recent days. The obvious division, which one EU official said there was no point hiding, has led to the summit being called “G6+1” or, worse yet, “G6 vs 1”. The G7 finance ministers’ meeting resulted in a G6 statement on behalf of the six countries concerned about unilateral US tariffs.
At home, the president’s comments about Russia’s reinstatement into the G7 are raising eyebrows in light of the ongoing investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
In May, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report concluding that Russian hackers conducted an unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign against state election infrastructure. Russia has consistently denied any wrongdoing, contrary to evidence proving otherwise. President Trump also denies Russia’s meddling in the election and any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.
In addition to denying meddling in our presidential election, Putin still denies involvement in the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 which was recently determined to have been shot down over the Ukraine by a Russian missile from a specific military unit from Russia. The plane crashed in 2014, killing all passengers aboard. The Kremlin is also accused by the British government of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal with the Russian nerve agent, novichok, in the small town of Salisbury in March. Russia denies any involvement.
Trump’s comments suggesting the G7 welcome Russia back to the fold are a stark break from US allies around the world and come at a time when Russia remains as defiant as ever over its intentional aggression towards its enemies and has posed a significant threat to our election infrastructure.
Why It Matters
Beyond the implications of yet again placating Putin and elevating the Kremlin, both in perception and in view of special counsel’s investigation, the alienation of our allies and friends around the world is a serious business. Isolation and protectionism haven’t ended well for the US throughout history and the president would be wise to be strengthening relationships with allies instead of lashing out on Twitter when foreign leaders disagree with him.
Today Senator Ben Sasse said in response to the president’s call to reinstate Russia to the G7, “Putin is not our friend and he is not the President’s buddy. He is a thug using Soviet-style aggression to wage a shadow war against America, and our leaders should act like it.”
Sasse is correct.