Although Russian President Vladimir Putin is not at the G-7 summit, his country was quite the subject of conversation for the people who did attend. Since 2014, Russia was kicked from the group for its occupation of Crimea.
On Friday, President Trump first mentioned that the meeting would be more effective and beneficial if Russia was invited back into the group. But, that decision was merely discussed and was not held to a vote.
The subject of Russia was brought up again when a reporter asked Trump about the Crimea situation and whether the area should be recognized as Russian territory.
The reporter simply asked, “Do you think Crimea should be recognized as Russia at this point?”
President Trump said the reporter should go ask the man who did not stop Russia from acquiring the land to begin with. In other words, he said the issue was settled by another president long before he came onto the scene: “You’d have to ask President Obama because he was the one that let Crimea get away.”
— TexanUnCorked (@TexCorker) June 9, 2018
As for if the situation hypothetically took place today, Trump said he maintains a “much different attitude” than his predecessor.
“Obama can say all he wants but he allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have had a much different attitude,” the president answered.
— Supreme Leather (@LeatherSupreme) June 9, 2018
Here’s more from the presser, via Axios:
Ahead of the G-7 summit in Canada Friday, President Trump told reporters that he thinks Russia, which was ousted from the group of countries with the leading advanced economies for annexing Crimea, to be reinstated — re-forming a Group of 8 (G-8).
Why it matters: As with the big-stakes talks with China and North Korea, this is Trump granting an enormous concession absent reciprocity, putting him further at odds with U.S. allies ahead of today’s G-7 summit.
Be smart: Trump has been consistently criticized for seeming lenient toward Russia despite their threats to U.S. democracy, including the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
As BBC reports, the move to call for Russia to be readmitted to the group was somewhat surprising, but “German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU members attending the summit in Canada were all against the idea.”
CNN similarly reports that the other international leaders at the summit expressed they do not wish Russia is added back to the group.
“We agree that a return by Russia to the G7 format cannot happen as long as there isn’t any substantial progress in regard to the problems with Ukraine. That was the common view,” Merkel said, per the report.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Friday that “there are no grounds whatsoever for bringing Russia, with its current behavior, back into the G7.”
This sentiment was echoed by a senior United Kingdom government source.
“We (have) always been clear we should engage with Russia where it is in our interests, but we need to remember why G8 became the G7, it was because Russia illegally annexed Crimea,” a European diplomat said Friday. “Since then we have seen an increase in Russian misbehavior and attempts to undermine democracy in Europe. It is not appropriate for Russia to rejoin until we see it behaving responsibly. Putin should get nothing for free.”