GOP Senators Balk at Trump’s Call for Russia to Rejoin the G7

Republican senators are starkly rejecting President Donald Trump’s call for Russia to be reinstated to the G7 (formerly G-8) group of leading economies.

The Kremlin was kicked out of the G7 in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea, which other members of the group, as well as Trump’s own State Department, have repeatedly condemned and refused to recognize. But before leaving for the annual G7 summit meeting in Canada on Friday, Trump questioned why Russia had not been not invited.

“Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting?” he said. “I would recommend—and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting, it should be a part of it. You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run and the G7—which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

Arizona senator John McCain condemned Trump for his position toward Moscow. Russia, he said, has made itself “unworthy” of G7 membership with its actions in Crimea, its continuing invasion of Ukraine, and its support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

“The president has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies. Those nations that share our values and have sacrificed alongside us for decades are being treated with contempt,” McCain said. “This is the antithesis of so-called ‘principled realism’ and a sure path to diminishing America’s leadership in the world.”

Ohio senator Rob Portman also pushed back on the idea that Russia should be readmitted into the G7, describing such a move, if it were to occur, as an entirely unwarranted reward.

“Russia shouldn’t be let back into the G8 until it changes the behavior that caused it to be expelled in the first place,” Portman told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “The fact is Russia still occupies Crimea and continues to fuel a violent conflict in eastern Ukraine. It maintains its support for the murderous Assad regime and aggressively uses disinformation and propaganda in an attempt to undermine, weaken, and divide the United States and our NATO allies. This kind of behavior should be condemned, not rewarded.”

Nebraska senator Ben Sasse said the president’s call for Russia to be reinstated is “weak.”

“Putin is not our friend and he is not the President’s buddy,” Sasse said. “He is a thug using Soviet-style aggression to wage a shadow war against America, and our leaders should act like it.”

Trump has expressed a desire to improve relations with Russia and has not consistently condemned the Kremlin over its interference in the 2016 elections—often appearing to split from his administration, which has been tough on Russia both in its statements and policy enactments.

The State and Treasury Departments have enforced punishments including expelling 60 Russian diplomats from the U.S. when Russia was implicated in the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter in the United Kingdom. The administration has also been unwavering in condemned Russia over its annexation of Crimea, and has supported Ukraine as it fights against Russian-supported separatist forces along its eastern border. That includes providing Ukraine with long-coveted Javelin anti-tank missiles.

Michael McFaul, who served as President Obama’s ambassador to Russia, noted on Twitter that Trump’s call does not fit with Russia’s own desires. The Kremlin is not looking to join “Western clubs” like the G-7, he said, but to create its own.

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