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Trump Says G7 'Should Let Russia Come Back in' as Member

President Trump speaks to the media at the White House on June 8, 2018. (Chris Kleponis/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

WASHINGTON — In advance of flying to Canada for the G7 summit, President Trump said today that Russia — kicked out of the G8 in 2014 for the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea — should be readmitted back into the group.

“Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend — it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting. It should be a part of it,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for Charlevoix, Quebec.

“You know, whether you like it or not — and it may not be politically correct — but we have a world to run, and in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out,” he added. “They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

At the time of the G8 suspension of Russia, the seven other powers in the group of the leading industrialized nations noted that “international law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force.”

“To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built. We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution,” the G7 said in 2014. “We also strongly condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations.”

The United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy were the original members of the group before adding Russia in 1998.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said British Prime Minister Teresa May will be “putting forward a British plan that will have global support to set up a rapid response unit to identify Russian malfeasance…whether it’s cyber warfare, assassinations, calling it out and identifying it.”

“One of the problems is Russia is so good at spreading violence,” Johnson told Conservative Party activists, according to BuzzFeed. “They’re brilliant at it. We need to identify it and call it out.”

Italy’s prime minister tweeted support for readmitting Russia, while Canada is opposed.

Britain, which experienced a chemical attack this spring using Russian nerve agent novichok that targeted a former double agent and his daughter, was also opposed. “The PM has always said we should engage with Russia but beware,” a government source told the Daily Mail. “We should remind ourselves why the G8 became the G7 — it was after Russia illegally annexed Crimea. Since then we have seen malign activity from Russia in a whole variety of ways, including on the streets of Salisbury in the UK.”

The proposal also didn’t have much initial support on Capitol Hill.

“This is weak. Putin is not our friend and he is not the president’s buddy,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement. “He is a thug using Soviet-style aggression to wage a shadow war against America, and our leaders should act like it.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tweeted, “No, Russia should not be added to the G-7.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) slammed Trump for “turning our foreign policy into an international joke, doing lasting damage to our country, without any rhyme or reason.”

“We need the president to be able to distinguish between our allies and adversaries, and to treat each accordingly. On issue after issue, he’s failed to do that,” Schumer said in a statement. “The president’s support for inviting Russia back into the G-7, just after they meddled in the election to support his campaign, will leave millions of Americans with serious questions and suspicions.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) tweeted, “Say what you will about Trump, he sure is loyal to the country that elected him.”