The coronavirus pandemic then led to it being rescheduled as a virtual event. But after a few weeks, Trump attempted to reverse that decision in favor of an in-person session at the White House in June. When that proposal was met with resistance from other G-7 nations, Trump said on Saturday that the whole thing is on hold until at least September.
It wasn’t until that last plot twist that Trump raised what seemed the dormant, and fraught, question of whether Russia should again be included in the clubby annual meetings. The potential invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to join the meeting would insert a poison pill into discussions about holding any meeting at all this year, when the United States is the G-7 host.
Trump also proposed expanding the group’s membership to include South Korea, Australia and India, although the most he could do on his own is to invite those nations and Russia to attend this year as his guests.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in accepted during a phone call Monday, White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
If Trump did get his way and Putin came as his guest this fall, Trump could also be spotlighting his relationship with Russia just weeks before the 2020 election. Trump denies he received any help from Russia in the 2016 election, although U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that was one goal of Russian election interference. Those agencies have also warned Russia is likely to try again this year.
Trump and Putin spoke by phone on Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. The conversation took place at Trump’s request and included a discussion about the G-7 meeting, the Kremlin’s news agency reported.
Russia was expelled in 2014 from what was then known as the Group of Eight over its invasion of Ukraine, a redrawing of Europe’s borders by force that the other members, all industrial democracies, said was disqualifying.
Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan have not changed that view, despite Trump’s argument that it’s time to move on. Britain and Canada have spoken out against the idea of readmitting Russia in the days since Trump’s surprise announcement Saturday night that the meeting was off, for now.
Trump had pushed the Russia issue hardest in 2018 when it was part of a bitter confrontation between Trump and other leaders in Canada that ended in Trump pulling his name from the joint statement of goals and accomplishments traditionally issued at the close of such summits. At last year’s summit in France, the other leaders didn’t even try to issue such a statement for fear Trump would wreck it.
Trump has criticized the G-7 as out of touch and restrictive, a relic of a different world order in which rich nations made the rules. He has mused instead about a G-10 or other numbers.
“I don’t feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump said Saturday, speaking to reporters as he returned to Washington from Florida, where he had watched the successful SpaceX launch. “It’s a very outdated group of countries.”
Economists and foreign policy experts don’t necessarily disagree, but they point out that the body promotes unified economic policies and provides a forum to air disputes among the countries that still control much of the world’s wealth and entrepreneurial capital. They also note that the Group of 20 was created precisely to provide the expanded playing field Trump says is needed, and that all the add-on nations he listed are already G-20 members.
“There is no indication that Trump is seeking to strengthen the G-7, which he has long disparaged,” said Amanda Sloat, a Europe expert at the Brookings Institution. She noted that French President Emmanuel Macron had to prod Trump to hold a virtual meeting among leaders in March to coordinate early responses…