(WASHINGTON) — Just days before heading to the G-7 Summit in France, President Donald Trump on Tuesday doubled down on his support for allowing Russia to rejoin the group of the world’s advanced economies.
Trump has repeatedly called for closer ties with Moscow and it’s a move he backed last year. But Western democracies have said no, citing Russian aggression in Europe and in particular Ukraine.
“I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in,” Trump said Tuesday at the White House. “A lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia, I could certainly see it being the G-8 again, if someone would make that motion, I would be disposed to think about it favorably.”
In 2014, President Barack Obama and other the member nations booted Russia out of what was then the G-8 as a rebuke to Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and its support for Russian-led separatists in eastern Ukraine.
But Trump suggested Tuesday that Obama wanted Putin out because he had been “outsmarted” by Putin.
“I guess President Obama because Putin outsmarted him. President Obama thought it wasn’t a good thing to have Russia in, so he wanted Russia out,” he said.
A diplomatic source briefed on the G-7 preparations said there was no interest in inviting Russia back to the group because there had been no progress in Ukraine. Instead, finding ways to support the country’s new president in the face of ongoing Russian interference will be a priority for the meeting, the source said.
Despite that opposition, Trump suggested there would be support “if someone would make that motion.”
The G-7 members are the U.S., France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom. France is hosting the annual summit of the group’s heads of state this weekend in the resort city of Biarritz.
In June 2018, Trump also suggested that Russia should attend last year’s G-7 hosted by Canada. A spokesperson for the Kremlin turned down the offer, saying the country was not interested at the time.
Trump has repeatedly called for closer ties with Moscow, even as his administration has increased sanctions on its defense and intelligence sectors and expelled dozens of Russian diplomats.
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