Trump stood up for Putin and clashed with world leaders on the importance of democracy at G7 summit: reports
President Donald Trump's bizarre affection for the authoritarian Russian President Vladimir Putin remains unexplained, but it is an unshakeable feature of his foreign policy.
And according to multiple reports, Trump's kinship with Putin — and particularly his desire to elevate him back on a par with other world leaders — enflamed tensions at the weekend's G7 summit.
Trump spoke candidly at a press conference about his desire to welcome Russia back to the table for the group once known as the G8. He blamed Putin's expulsion from the group on former President Barack Obama, saying his predecessor was "outsmarted" by Putin when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. Trump neglected to blame Putin at all for this violation of sovereignty and falsely suggested that it was Obama's desire alone to oust Russia from the group, rather than a consensus decision.
“I think it would be better to have Russia inside the tent than outside the tent,” Trump told reporters on Monday.
Behind the closed doors of the summit, this suggestion was not welcomed warmly, the Washington Post reported:
Trump’s extraordinary promotion of Putin proved to be the most tense disagreement over three days of contentious meetings at this year’s G-7 in the French oceanside resort town of Biarritz. The U.S. leader’s wish to restore Russia’s legitimacy was in keeping with his long-standing role as a Putin cheerleader and apologist, but it was coolly received by other leaders at the gathering.
Other leaders knew the push was coming, although some advisers said they did not expect he would bring it up so forcefully. European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister who has little sympathy for Russia, tried to head it off even before Trump touched down in Biarritz.
The leaders sat down Saturday evening for their first joint meeting — a dinner of Basque specialties at the foot of the landmark lighthouse of Biarritz. The meal started normally, with a discussion of the fires in the Amazon. It moved on to containing Iran’s nuclear threat. But it went off the rails when Trump blasted leaders for not including Russia.
A CNN article reported similar findings:
Trump, as he did in public over the course of the summit, ardently advocated for it, the officials said. As the leaders discussed issues like Iran and fires in the Amazon rainforest, Trump interjected and asked why Russia should not be included in the talks, given its size and role in global affairs.That met sharp resistance from some of the leaders, principally German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. They argued Russia had grown more anti-democratic since it was ejected in 2014 for its incursion into Ukraine, disqualifying it from rejoining the G7.The dispute amounted to one of the most heated moments of this weekend's G7.
The Post also noted that Trump split with the other attendees about the importance of Democracy:
The entire 44-year vision of the G-7 gathering, according to the non-U. S. participants, is to hash out global issues among like-minded democracies. So the discussion quickly turned even more fundamental: Whether the leaders should assign any special weight to being a democracy, officials said.
Most of the other participants forcefully believed the answer was yes. Trump believed the answer was no. The pushback against him was delivered so passionately that the U.S. president’s body language changed as one leader after another dismissed his demand, according to a senior official who watched the exchange. He crossed his arms. His stance became more combative.
One source said to the Post of Trump's comments: "The consequence is the same as if one of the participants is a dictator ... No community of like-minded leaders who are pulling together.”
Both reports also noted that since the next G7 summit is supposed to be held in the United States, Trump could just unilaterally invite Putin to attend. Trump even suggested publicly that he might do just that, though he speculated that Putin might not feel welcome.