LA MALBAIE, Que. – U.S. President Donald Trump injected fresh drama into an already tense meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations Friday, calling for Russia, ousted for its the annexation of Crimea, to be reinstated.
Trump made the comment at the White House Friday after hours of further escalating his rhetoric against longtime allies over U.S. trade practices.
“Why are we having a meeting without Russia in the meeting?” Trump asked. “They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
Solidifying his solo status on the world stage, Trump also lashed out at longtime allies over their criticism of his trade policies. He plans an early exit from the G-7 meeting.
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Russia was ousted from the elite group in 2014 as punishment for President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and its support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. In the U.S., special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in a bid to sway the 2016 presidential election in his favour.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Ottawa’s position against such a move had not changed with regards to Russia.
Russia needs to change its approach before any conversation about it rejoining the G7 can begin, a senior British government source told Reuters on Friday.
“The (prime minister) has always said we should engage with Russia but beware,” the source told Reuters. “We should remind ourselves why the G8 became the G7 – it was after Russia illegally annexed Crimea…. Since then we have seen malign activity from Russia in a whole variety of ways, including on the streets of Salisbury in the UK.”
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The Russian government also appeared to snub 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.
On Thursday, Putin called the tariffs “sanctions” on Canada.
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“The introduction, for example, of restrictive tariffs on steel, on aluminum, not only for Europe but also for Canada and Mexico, in essence these are also sanctions… They are related to the pragmatic national interests of the United States,” Putin said. “It appears, our partners thought that this would never affect them, this counterproductive politics of restrictions and sanctions. But now we are seeing that this is happening.”
New Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Friday he would try to promote “moderate” positions on trade tariffs at a Group of Seven summit where the contentious issue looks set to dominate talks among leaders.
“Regarding the trade tariffs, there are very conflictual positions out there,” Conte told reporters ahead of the summit.
Conte said it was important that trade sanctions against Russia do not hurt the country’s ordinary people, and said Italy was “totally dissatisfied” with the way immigration from Africa was being handled in the European Union.
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The Italian government, backed by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and far-right League, has already signaled it is likely to adopt a pro-Russian line in its foreign policy and has called for an end to economic sanctions on Moscow.