Trump Says Russia Should Be Readmitted to G7

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WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Tuesday that Russia should be readmitted to the Group of 7 industrialized nations, a call for ending Moscow’s pariah status on the world stage that is likely to earn a cool reception when the group’s annual summit opens this weekend.

Speaking a few days before his planned departure for the summit, in Biarritz, France, Mr. Trump said that Moscow’s exclusion since 2014 from the group of leading economic powers should be reversed and, ignoring Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, contended that the true reason for it was President Barack Obama’s wounded pride.

“I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office before a meeting with President Klaus Iohannis of Romania. “I could certainly see it being the G8 again.”

One reason, Mr. Trump said, was “because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia.”

Russia was disinvited from gatherings of the former Group of 8 after the country’s annexation of Crimea, which in a joint statement the remaining group members called a violation of international law that could have “grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states.”

Mr. Trump, who made similar comments before last year’s Group of 7 meeting in Canada, did not attach any conditions to his proposal, which could signal that the international community has moved on from Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine. It was the latest of several suggestions by Mr. Trump — whose 2016 campaign’s contacts with Kremlin-affiliated Russians were the subject of a long federal investigation, and who has personally courted the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin — that Russia has been unfairly treated by the United States and its allies.

That was in contrast to the view of France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, who a day earlier told a visiting Mr. Putin that Russia could rejoin the elite gathering if it helped end the continuing conflict in Ukraine. Moscow has supported a bloody rebellion by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine that the United Nations estimates has claimed more than 13,000 lives since it began five years ago.

In a news conference with Mr. Putin, Mr. Macron called resolving the international “dispute” over Russia’s policy toward Ukraine “the key” to Russian readmission into a reconstituted Group of 8.

Steven Pifer, a former United States ambassador to Ukraine, said he could envision a Russian return to the annual meetings, which aim for consensus action on issues like trade, terrorism, energy and the environment. But that should happen only if Russia earns its readmission by helping bring peace to Ukraine, he said.

“On one level, I agree with President Trump that it would be nice to get to a new U.S.-Russia relationship,” said Mr. Pifer, now a William Perry fellow at Stanford University. “But he never seems to suggest that Russia has to make some changes to its policies to get to that point.”

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President Trump said Russia should be readmitted to the Group of 7 nations during a meeting on Tuesday with Romania’s president.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Pifer allowed that demanding the return of Crimea to Ukraine seemed much less realistic than an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. “It’s hard to see how Ukraine gets the leverage to get Crimea back,” he said.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Trump made no reference to Russia’s annexation of the strategically valuable Crimean Peninsula, which began with a military intervention after Ukraine’s 2014 revolution ousted a pro-Russia leader and was consummated in a referendum widely condemned as illegitimate.

Instead, Mr. Trump, who has shown little concern about the fate of Crimea and has even suggested that it may rightfully belong to Russia, implied that Moscow’s real offense had been to embarrass his predecessor, Mr. Obama, who had unsuccessfully warned Russia against seizing the region.

“I guess President Obama, because Putin outsmarted him, President Obama thought it wasn’t a good thing to have Russia in,” Mr. Trump said. “So he wanted Russia out.”

“Well, that’s not the way it really should work,” he added.

The president addressed the issue on Tuesday in response to a question from a reporter, who noted that the United States will host next year’s Group of 7 summit. Mr. Trump hinted that he would not press the issue himself, however.

“If somebody would make that motion,” the president said, “I would certainly be disposed to think about it very favorably.”

Those remarks echoed Mr. Trump’s words from June of last year when, before departing for the Group of 7 summit in Canada, he declared that “Russia should be in this meeting.”

“Whether you like it or not — and it may not be politically correct — but we have a world to run,” he added.

But that scenario appears highly unlikely for now. No other Group of 7 leaders echoed Mr. Trump’s call last year. Nor does Russia seem to be clamoring for readmission.

Appearing Monday with Mr. Macron, Mr. Putin did not reject the idea but asked: “How can I come back into an organization that doesn’t exist? It is called the G7 today.”

Responding to a New York Times article that he is likely to tap his deputy secretary of state, John Sullivan, as his next ambassador to Moscow, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Sullivan was “very respected” and “could very well” be his nominee.

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