President Trump used a phone call on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin to suggest that Moscow return to the G-7. In doing so, he is undermining U.S. allies and boosting an ardent adversary. What’s more, the Kremlin promptly reciprocated by attacking the Trump administration’s handling of the ongoing riots. Referring to U.S. efforts to …
President Trump used a phone call on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin to suggest that Moscow return to the G-7. In doing so, he is undermining U.S. allies and boosting an ardent adversary.
What’s more, the Kremlin promptly reciprocated by attacking the Trump administration’s handling of the ongoing riots.
Referring to U.S. efforts to boost global human rights interests, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the riots mean that “as of today, they do not have this right anymore. I think that it is not a coincidence that they quit the U.N. Human Rights Council recently.”
Not so helpfully for the White House, the Kremlin also undermined Trump’s careful description of the call. While Washington simply stated that the “two leaders discussed progress towards convening the G-7,” Russia claimed that “Mr. Trump informed Mr. Putin about his idea of holding a G-7 summit with the possible invitation of the leaders of Russia, Australia, India, and the Republic of Korea.”
Such generosity of spirit is Putin’s way. And Russian disdain for Trump’s kindness does speak to a broader truth — that Trump’s campaign to see Russia returned to the G-7 was and remains ridiculous.
For a start, Trump views Putin’s return to the group (which would make it the G-8 again) as a way to score a win against former President Barack Obama. Speaking last August, Trump suggested that Russia had been removed from the G-8 because Obama had been “outsmarted” by Putin.
Yes, Obama’s Russia policy was defined by extraordinary delusion, but Obama’s ego is not why Russia was chucked out of the G-8. Russia is no longer in because it seized and still retains control over the Ukrainian province of Crimea. The G-7 has agreed that until Russia returns Crimea, it will remain excluded from the group. Britain and Canada doubled down on this sentiment on Monday. They recognize that Trump’s proposal would undermine the United States-led international order, the inviolability of sovereign democratic nations being one of its cornerstones.
So, why is Trump doing this? Is it because he appreciates the former KGB lieutenant colonel’s friendliness when the two speak? Is it because Trump believes that Putin will somehow reward any return to the G-7 by suspending his penchant for stealing territory, spreading nerve agents around Czech cities and English country towns, and shredding Syrian hospitals?
I hope Trump isn’t that naive because whatever the president is thinking, Putin’s malevolent motives are becoming more evident every day.
To be fair to the president, his idea to expand the G-7 to include Australia, India, and South Korea is more sensible. Trump says this is necessary because a G-7 with only Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.S. is “a very outdated group of countries.” Even then, however, the annual G-20 forum provides adequate space for other nations to meet in discussion.
Fortunately, there’s time to sort this out. Trump has rightly delayed the G-7 summit until September. Let’s hope he doesn’t break with American allies in order to, even if unintentionally, assist an American foe.