President Donald Trump said that Russia should be allowed to rejoin the Group of 7 forum of leading economies this weekend in Quebec.
Trump lamented that Russia was expelled from the global political group in 2014 after it annexed Crimea. The United States, along with its allies, supported Russia’s ejection at the time.
“Russia should be in this meeting,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. “Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting?”
Trump, who arrived in Canada hours later, described himself as “Russia’s worst nightmare” but said that “we have a world to run.” Trump has frequently discussed his desire to build a better relationship with Russia, but the approach has been scrutinized because of questions about Trump’s relationship with the country prior to the 2016 election.
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating Russia’s involvement in the election, including links to Trump’s campaign.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to a Russian state news outlet, did not say whether his country would rejoin the group if invited. He said that Russia is “focused on other formats, apart from the G7.”
The idea drew bipartisan criticism from Capitol Hill. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a frequent critic of Trump, called the move “weak.”
“Putin is not our friend and he is not the President’s buddy,” Sasse said in a statement. “He is a thug using Soviet-style aggression to wage a shadow war against America, and our leaders should act like it.”
Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Trump of “turning our foreign policy into an international joke.”
Trump’s remarks were the latest show of disunity between the U.S. and the other six nations meeting at a resort on the Saint Lawrence River this weekend. Trump was already expected to face tense meetings following his decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum from those countries.
The meeting is getting under way a day after the president engaged in a Twitter spat with summit participants and announced he would leave the gathering before it is over. The U.S. is meeting with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom at the summit.
“Looking forward to straightening out unfair Trade Deals with the G-7 countries,” Trump posted on Twitter early Friday. “If it doesn’t happen, we come out even better!”
I am heading for Canada and the G-7 for talks that will mostly center on the long time unfair trade practiced against the United States. From there I go to Singapore and talks with North Korea on Denuclearization. Won’t be talking about the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax for a while!