Russia should be reinstated as a member of the world’s most exclusive economic club, President Donald Trump said Friday.
Russia had been a member of the then-G-8 economic alliance, but was booted in 2014 as punishment for its invasion of Crimea. Trump made the comment as he was preparing to leave for a G-7 summit meeting in Canada. The G-7 includes the U.S., Canada, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany. The European Union will also be attending this summit.
Trump’s comments about Russia came as he prepared to board Marine One at the White House. Referencing tensions among summit members, one reporter asked Trump if the summit was “G-6 plus one.”
“It may be,” Trump replied, according to the White House pool report. “You can call it anything you want. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It used to be the G-8 because Russia was in it. And now Russia’s not in it.”
Trump then spoke about relations between the U.S. and Russia.
“Now, I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare. If Hillary got in, I’d think Putin is probably going, Man, I wish Hillary won. Because you see what I do,” he said.
He then talked about restoring Russia to the G-8.
“Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend, and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting. They should be a part of it,” Trump said.
“You know, whether you like it or not — and it may not be politically correct — but we have a world to run. 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 said.
Russia seemed willing to remain on the outside.
“Russia is focused on other formats, apart from the G-7,” Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement reported by the government-controlled Sputnik news agency.
Some G-7 members were quick to throw cold water on Trump’s idea.
Reuters reported that a French official said Trump’s idea did not seem “coherent.” A spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is still against letting Russia back into the G-7.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who was only recently elected to office, supported Trump.
Trump’s comment also drew flak from his own party.
“This is weak,” Sen. Ben Sasse said, according to The Hill. The Nebraska Republican is a frequent Trump critic.
“Putin is not our friend and he is not the president’s buddy. He is a thug using Soviet-style aggression to wage a shadow war against America, and our leaders should act like it,” Sasse said.
Trump had earlier told reporters he viewed the summit as a time to fight back against other nations’ trade policies.
“We’re going to deal with the unfair trade practices. If you look at what Canada, 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,” Trump said.
“What are you going to do if they form an agreement without you?” a reporter asked.
“We are going to do very well. Now, if we’re unable to make a deal, we’ll terminate NAFTA; we’ll have a better deal. If we are unable to make a deal, we will be better off. Right now, we are not going to live with the deals the way they are. European Union treats us very unfairly. Canada, very unfairly. Mexico, very unfairly,” he said.
European leaders were already pushing back Friday.
“When it comes to trade — the positions are very clear. The President of the United States thinks that the U.S. has been treated in an unfair way by Europe and by others, and the others think that this is not the case,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. “We will explain this through facts and figures, that this is not the right view one should have on this topic.”
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