On May 30, on Air Force One, President Trump explained his views regarding the G7 meeting to reporters. He said that he planned to call the next one in September, and that he was expecting to invite Russia, South Korea, Australia and India. He claimed that the current structure was “very outdated” and no longer appropriate for “what’s going on in the world.”
Russia was removed from the G8 in 2014, following their annexation of Crimea. President Trump has pushed for them their re-introduction to the group repeatedly, and that portion of his statement was not particularly surprising. It was met with an immediate rejection on Sunday, May 31 by both the Prime Ministers of Canada and the UK.
Trump responded by taking a long phone call with Vladimir Putin on Monday, June 1, then reiterating his desire to invite Russia during a Fox News interview on Wednesday. He described his decision as “common sense”, because “Many of the things that we talk about are about Putin.” He went on to suggest they should “have him in the room … get things done.”
Due to the focus on Russia, comparatively little attention has been given to the other countries in President Trump’s proposal. On Sunday, Germany indicated its firm opposition to the inclusion of any of them.
DW.com has provided an English translation for portions an interview given by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Sunday. It quotes him as explaining, “The reason for Russia’s exclusion was the annexation of Crimea and intervention in Eastern Ukraine. As long as we do not have a solution there, I see no chance for this.”
While this statement leaves the door open for Russia’s eventual reintroduction, should they modify their current political direction, no such opening was granted for the other nations suggested. “The G7 and G20 are two sensibly coordinated formats. We don’t need G11 or G12.”
This sentiment echoes the statement of Japan’s Foreign Secretary Toshimitsu Motegi on June 28, “It’s very important to keep the G7 framework itself, and I believe this is an overall consensus.” Japan has placed particular emphasis on rejecting the inclusion of South Korea in the summit, likely due to increased tensions between the two countries.
Russia, for its part, used the opportunity presented by the President to firm its diplomatic connections with China by stating that any inclusion of Russia would necessitate an inclusion of China as well.
Trump’s history with the G7 has been rocky both due to his continued promotion of Russia and his trade war attacks on our allies. An expanded G7 in September would be a political coup for him. It would demonstrate an ability to subordinate the will of other leaders regarding Putin and it would, by stacking the group with people who were at least somewhat indebted to Trump for their inclusion, greatly increase the chance that he would be provided favorable photo ops and publicity.
A key revelation of the Mueller Report was that Trump’s organization sought to work with Russia regarding election interference, but Russia did not bother to provide them with relevant information after Trump’s operation had given Russia all of the data they sought. The lack of reciprocity or coordination provided an inadvertent excuse to claim innocence; the direct damage to Trump was minimized in that case by his campaign’s sheer incompetence in basic negotiation. Getting Putin back into the G8 would have provided a concrete reason for Russia to once again work on behalf of Trump’s election, this time with the Trump campaign minimizing any potential contacts and simply trusting Putin to work on their behalf.
The rejection of Trump’s G7 expansion is another blow to his re-election strategy.