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Trump calls for Russia to be brought back into G-7

The statement is likely to add to tensions already at full boil at the meeting in Canada.

Updated

President Donald Trump on Friday called for Russia to be reinstated into the group of the world’s largest economies, from which it was removed in 2014 after its forced annexation of Crimea away from Ukraine.

“Now, I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare,” Trump said. “But with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting?”

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Trump made the remarks on the White House’s South Lawn as he left for the G-7 summit in Quebec, which he will depart early from in order to travel to Singapore, where he is scheduled to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next week.

His suggestion that the G-7 welcome Russia back into the fold is likely to further heighten tensions in Quebec, where the president is expected to meet with allies irate over his decision to impose tariffs on imports from Canada and the European Union.

The G-7, short for group of seven, was previously the G-8 until 2014, when the group’s members expelled Russia over its invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. The G-7’s current membership includes the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Paul Ryan is pictured. | POLITICO

“I would recommend — and it’s 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,” Trump told reporters. “And in the G-7, which used to be the G-8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in. Because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

Trump’s support for Russia’s reentry into the group of the world’s most powerful economies adds to the lengthy list of warm gestures he has offered for the Kremlin and its leader, President Vladimir Putin. Critics of the president have long complained that his foreign policy is too soft on Russia, which the U.S. intelligence community has said sought to interfere in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf, especially relative to the president’s get-tough approach to foreign policy elsewhere around the globe.

But while Trump’s rhetoric towards Russia and towards Putin in particular have been noticeably warmer than that of his predecessor, the president and his administration have pointed often to significant steps taken against the Kremlin, including new sanctions, the expulsion of dozens of diplomats and the forced closure of Russia’s two West Coast consulates in Seattle and San Francisco.

“If Hillary got in, I think Putin is probably going, ‘man, I wish Hillary won,’ because you see what I do,” Trump said on Friday about his harsher actions against Russia.

Russia had been scheduled to host the G8 summit in 2014 and had been planning to hold the leaders’ gathering in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which was also the site of the Winter Olympics that year. But after Russian troops invaded Crimea, officials quickly rescheduled for Brussels, the capital of the European Union, which participates in both the G7 and the G20. Russian remains a part of the larger group.

Even before Trump’s remark Friday morning, his time in Quebec appeared likely to be marked by terse conversations with leaders from some of America’s closest allies.

The U.S. president has devoted significant focus in recent weeks to resetting U.S. trade relationships around the globe, complaining especially loudly about what he says is unfair treatment by top trade partners like Canada and the EU. The president’s decision to impose tariffs on both earned him a stern rebuke from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of multiple major EU nations.

Trump is scheduled to meet Friday for two bilateral meetings, one with Trudeau and another with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The two leaders this week both promised to confront Trump over his recent decision to impose tariffs on U.S. allies, using blunt language to describe their positions.

“Maybe the American president doesn’t care about being isolated today, but we don’t mind being six, if needs be,” Macron said.

Trump hit back on Twitter late Thursday.

“Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers,” he twieeted. “The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $ 151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”

He added, “Prime Minister Trudeau is being so indignant, bringing up the relationship that the U.S. and Canada had over the many years and all sorts of other things…but he doesn’t bring up the fact that they charge us up to 300% on dairy — hurting our Farmers, killing our Agriculture!”

When asked by reporters Friday morning about the spat, Trump presented it as a temporary trade dispute that that “in the end we’ll all get along.”

“Look, all of these countries have been taking advantage of the United States on trade,” Trump said. “We have massive trade deficits with almost every country. We will straighten that out. And I’ll tell you what, it’s what I do. It won’t even be hard, and in the end we’ll all get along… When it all straightens out, we’ll all be in love again.”

Despite numerous other differences, Western leaders have remained united in the need to maintain economic sanctions and other pressure on Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine — not just in Crimea but in the eastern Donbas region, where it has supported an armed insurgency. An international investigative team recently announced that a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet, Flight MH-17 that was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014 was destroyed by a Russian missile supplied by a specific military unit in southern Russia.

Putin has continued to deny any Russian role in that incident, which killed all the passengers on board. Putin initially denied that Russian military forces had invaded Crimea but later acknowledged that they had done so, and even bestowed awards on soldiers who participated in the operation.

David Herszenhorn contributed to this report.

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