President Donald Trump says it’s “certainly possible” he’ll invite Vladimir Putin as a guest to next year’s Group of Seven summit in the US, setting up a flashpoint with fellow nations who ejected the Russian leader over annexation of Crimea.
Trump spoke in Biarritz, France, on Sunday as the day’s session of the G-7 was set to get underway. He has previously called to fully readmit Putin into what was once the G-8, while the bloc’s fellow nations have balked at readmitting Russia, which was kicked out of the group over its hostilities in Ukraine.
The US will host next year’s G-7. Trump said ahead of a breakfast meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that it’s possible he’d invite Putin as a guest but doesn’t yet know. “It’s certainly possible, we’ll see,” Trump said, after earlier noting that he and other G-7 leaders had discussed the matter. “We had a very good discussion on Russia and President Putin, and a lively discussion, but, really, a good one,” Trump said.
Johnson then chimed in: “It was lively.”
Putin already has said at a news conference that if an invitation comes, he will be sure to consider it, RIA Novosti reported, citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Trump endorsed the idea of readmitting Russia to the G-7. “I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in,” he had said. “So, I could certainly see it being the G-8 again. And if somebody would make that motion, I would certainly be disposed to think about it very favorably.”
At a later meeting with Japan’s Shinzo Abe, Trump said it would be “advantageous” to have Russia back in the group, and that “some people agree with me and other people don’t necessarily agree”.
“Some of the people, I was surprised, I was actually surprised, a couple of them, because I didn’t think they had a good relationship, and it was good enough that they said they’d like to have them back,” Trump said of Russia. He called the discussion a “work in progress” and said he didn’t expect the group to make any decision at this summit.
The G-8 meetings had become the G-7 since 2014, when Russia was excluded from the group in protest of its annexation of Crimea. Countries regularly attend the G-7 as observers, without being full members. Spain, Australia, India and Chile are among the guests in Biarritz, for example.
The UK, Germany, France and Canada all have dismissed the idea of re-introducing Russia as a full member, unless Putin makes concessions on the continuing hostilities in Ukraine.