US President Donald Trump has said Russia should also be attending a Group of Seven nations (G7) summit, a controversial idea even Moscow seemed to reject, as he headed for a chilly reception at the meeting in Canada, where other G7 leaders are set to clash with him over trade.
- Russia was expelled from what was then G8 in 2014 after annexing Crimea from Ukraine
- Russia said its is focused on other formats, apart from G7
- A bigger controversy over tariffs on steel and aluminium awaits Mr Trump at summit
Russia was expelled from what was then called the G8 in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Mr Trump said it should be readmitted, an idea that was unlikely to gain any traction at the G7 gathering, which groups Canada, the United States, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany.
“You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run and the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out, they can let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table,” Mr Trump told reporters before leaving Washington.
A senior British Government source said Russia needs to change its approach before any conversation about it rejoining the G7 can begin.
A French presidential source said Mr Trump’s proposal did not seem “coherent” in view of the latest economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Moscow.
The Russian Government also appeared to snub Mr Trump’s idea.
“Russia is focused on other formats, apart from the G7,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a brief statement reported by the Government-controlled Sputnik news agency.
However, new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte threw his weight behind Mr Trump’s call for Russia to be included, saying in a tweet it would be “in the interests of everyone”.
Bigger controversy over trade
Mr Trump was heading into a bigger controversy over trade as other G7 leaders, including host Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have been angered over Washington’s imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminium imported from allies including Canada and the European Union.
“We’re going to deal with the unfair trade practices … If you look at what Canada, and Mexico, the European Union — all of them — have been doing to us for many, many decades … We have to change it… And they understand it’s going to happen,” Mr Trump said before leaving Washington on Friday.
Asked whether Mr Trudeau’s team was engaged in frantic damage control, a Canadian government official said it was always clear there would be disagreements at the summit over trade and relations with Russia.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Mr Trump, who exchanged terse Twitter messages ahead of the G7 summit, had a brief “very cordial” discussion about trade and North Korea upon arrival in Quebec, a French official said.
A source at the French presidency said on Friday that European leaders’ unity was “striking” at a meeting ahead of the summit.
Europeans agreed to push for references to global trade rules and caution on Russia in a final G7 statement, the source said, adding that Europeans believe conditions are not there for a return of Russia to the G7.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed to set up a dialogue and evaluation mechanism to resolve current trade differences with the United States and prevent future ones, the source added.
A source at the French presidency said the European leader’s unity was “striking” ahead of summit. (AP: Sean Kilpatrick)
At home, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer poured scorn on the Republican president’s suggestion that Russia should be readmitted to the G7.
“We need the President to be able to distinguish between our allies and adversaries, and to treat each accordingly,” he said in a statement.
Mr Trump has periodically called for closer ties with Russia, although his administration’s policy has included strong sanctions against Moscow.
While making his suggestion for Russia to be readmitted to the G7, the President said on Friday that he had “been Russia’s worst nightmare”.
Mr Trump’s presidency has been clouded by a federal investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion by his campaign.
Both Moscow and Mr Trump have denied any such activity.
“The President’s support for inviting Russia back into the G7, just after they meddled in the election to support his campaign, will leave millions of Americans with serious questions and suspicions,” Mr Schumer said.
Mr Trump has called for close ties with Russia despite imposing sanctions on Moscow. (AP: Andrew Vaughan)