President Trump has urged that Russia be readmitted to what is now the G-7. He stated:
Something happened a while ago where Russia is no longer in. I think it would be good to have Russia back in.
Whatever was it that happened “a while ago” that caused Russia to be kicked out of the G-7? I remember. Russia annexed Crimea.
How long a while ago did Russia do that? Four years.
Some things have happened since. In Eastern Ukraine, Russia has sponsored a war against a government we are friends with. It shot down a commercial airliner in Eastern Ukraine killing all 298 passengers.
In Syria, Russia has bombed civilians without mercy in order, in conjunction with Iran and Hezbollah, to save the Assad regime. And it interfered in our 2016 presidential election (even Trump doesn’t deny this), as well as elections in other European democracies.
Why, under these circumstances, does Trump believe Russia should be readmitted to the inner circle of our international partners. None of the G-7 members invades its neighbors, bombs civilians in support of enemy dictators in the Middle East, or interferes with the elections of fellow member states. None kills journalists or attempts the assassination of expats on the soil of member states.
The G-7 is a fraternity of our core partners. It should not include geopolitical adversaries with whom our relations are anything but fraternal (otherwise, why not invite China in). It should not include nations whose system of government differs radically from other members, and who don’t adhere to their norms. It certainly should not include nations whose ambitions are fundamentally at odds with those of the others.
I don’t mean to suggest the U.S. shouldn’t maintain relations with Russia or that we should never cooperate with Putin. We should and we do.
Russia is a member of the G-20. We deal with Russia as a fellow member of the U.N. Security Council. We coordinate to a degree with the Russian air force in Syria. And Trump is free to talk bilaterally with Vladimir Putin at any time. We can have all the dealings we want with Putin without inviting him into our tent.
The G-7 isn’t about to do so, as Trump must have known. Why, then, did he push for Russia’s readmission? I don’t know. Perhaps it was just to poke America’s fellow members, with whom he is feuding, in the eye. Perhaps he wanted to send a signal to Putin or maybe even to keep a promise.
The most innocent explanation would be that Trump is simply adhering to the position he took during the campaign — that, if possible, we should have good relations with Putin. Trump may also want to show that he’s not cowed by accusations of collusion with Russia into backing away from that position.
Unfortunately “some things have happened” since Trump first took this stance that should, and I had thought did, persuade him we can’t now have relations good enough to justify inviting Russia back into the G-7. Maybe he is persuaded and was just being a jerk with his blithe “something happened a while ago” remark. But maybe not.