Trump's call for Russia to join G7 faces swift backlash

Trump made the comments just before departing for the G7 summit in Canada.

June 8, 2018, 1:08 PM

President Donald Trump's call Friday for Russia to re-enter the G7 four years after the country was kicked out from the group of countries over its annexation of Crimea has resulted in a fierce backlash from foreign policy critics on both sides of the aisle.

"Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting?" Trump asked reporters before his departure for the summit in Charlevoix, Canada. "And I would recommend – it's up to them. But Russia should be in the meeting, should be a part of it."

Later in the day Friday, during a meeting with French President Macron, Trump was pressed on whether he brought up his idea of adding Russia back into the group with allies he met with throughout the day.

“We haven’t brought that up, hasn’t been brought up,” Trump responded.

The president morning comments followed a string of tweets from him railing against Canada, France and other European allies for what the president has described as an imbalanced trade relationship.

The tweets were in part a response to criticism from Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday who said the president's recent moves pulling the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and implementing new trade tariffs have isolated the U.S. on the world stage.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., soon issued a scathing statement against the president's Russia comments, saying Vladimir Putin has only continued "assaulting democratic institutions all over the world" since the invasion of Crimea.

"The President has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies," McCain said in a written statement. "Those nations that share our values and have sacrificed alongside us for decades are being treated with contempt. This is the antithesis of so-called ‘principled realism’ and a sure path to diminishing America’s leadership in the world.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, the Democratic ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, suggested Trump's invitation to Russia fits into a broader pattern of the president cozying up to President Vladimir Putin.

"The United States helped establish and lead the G7 in pursuit of a peaceful and prosperous world," Engel, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "While the other G7 democracies continue to uphold those values, President Trump has isolated the United States, weakened American influence, and alienated our closest allies. So it’s hardly a surprise he’s now looking to the leader he seems to admire most: Vladimir Putin."

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, another frequent critic of the president on foreign policy, also tweeted, "No, Russia should not be added to the G-7."

A senior U.K. government source earlier in the day pushed back following the president's arrival in Canada, invoking the recent poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal that the U.S. and British officials officially blamed Moscow for earlier this year.

"We should remind ourselves why the G8 became the G7 - it was after Russia illegally annexed Crimea," the official said. "Since then we have seen malign activity from Russia in a whole variety of ways, including on the streets of Salisbury in the UK. Before any conversations can take place about Russia rejoining, it needs to change its approach."

President Trump contended, though, that he has been Russia's "worst nightmare" when it comes to increased sanctions and international pressure and that it would be more productive for Russia to be involved in the meetings between the countries.

"You know, whether you like it or not – and it may not be politically correct – but we have a world to run," Trump said. "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."

Russia was suspended from the G-8 in March 2014 a week after Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. In a statement at the time the countries, which include the U.S., France, Canada, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and Japan, condemned Russia's actions as "illegal" and in "contravention of international law."

A former U.S. official during the Obama Administration said the effort to eject Russia was "a decision that President Obama helped drive and that was hammered out on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit."

U.S. policy still does not recognize Russia's referendum taking control of Crimea and continues to identify the territory as "a part of Ukraine."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined in the pile-on of criticism saying, "readmitting Russia to the G7 would reward Vladimir Putin for actions the U.S. and his allies have condemned, and would clearly be contrary to America's interests."

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