CHARLEVOIX, Quebec — President Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the Group of Seven industrial nations Friday, reaching out to an adversary as he further scrambled an international summit that has showcased a rift between the United States and its closest allies.

Russia was expelled four years ago after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region, and it has since angered U.S. lawmakers and foreign powers over interference in the U.S. presidential election, among other actions. But Trump broke with most other G-7 leaders during the first day of their annual summit here with his call to bring back Russia.

“Russia should be in this meeting,” Trump said Friday in Washington before leaving for the two-day summit. “Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run. … They should let Russia come back in.”

The split over Russia injected another point of division into an already tumultuous G-7 summit.

The gathering typically is meant to display a show of unity, but Trump has forced a more combative tone, with messy public feuds breaking out over trade disputes. Most of the foreign leaders had hoped to use the summit to confront Trump about new tariffs he is imposing on imports, but instead found themselves reacting to Trump’s Russia comments and bombastic Twitter posts.


Italian Prime Minster Giuseppe Conte said he agreed with Trump. British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was important to “engage with Russia,” but she said Russia would have to make changes before readmission could be discussed.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was more definitive, saying “Russia … made clear that it had no interest in behaving according to the rules of western democracies. … There are no grounds whatsoever for bringing Russia with its current behavior back into the G-7.”

Russian leaders, meanwhile, largely shrugged off the remarks.

“The G-8 needs Russia much more than Russia needs the G-8,” said lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament. Kosachev added the country should rejoin the group only on its own terms – “with sanctions removed and interests respected.”

U.S. intelligence agencies have said they have “high confidence” that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and part of this year’s G-7 summit was supposed to focus on protecting democracies from foreign meddling. Special counsel Robert Mueller III is investigating Russian interference efforts, including whether Trump’s campaign colluded in any way with Russian officials, a probe that has become an obsession for the president.

Trump’s National Security Council was surprised by the president’s call to readmit Russia to the G-7, according to a senior U.S. official who spoke anonymously.


Even before the Russia remarks, Trump had effectively upended this year’s G-7 summit by raising the prospect of refusing to sign on to a joint statement with other leaders asserting commonly shared principles and values.

And after French President Emmanuel Macron said the other six nations would be willing to move on without the United States, Trump criticized him and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – threatening to impose new trade penalties and pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“We have to change it, and they understand it’s going to happen,” Trump said Friday during a 20-minute impromptu question and answer session with reporters outside the White House. “If we’re unable to make a deal, we’ll terminate NAFTA. We’ll make a better deal.”

“And I’ll tell you what, it’s what I do. It won’t even be hard. And in the end, we’ll all get along,” Trump said.

After exchanging public barbs from afar, Trump and other leaders did appear to get along when he finally arrived in this sparkling resort town on the St. Lawrence River. They were all smiles during a group photo of the world leaders.

Trump sounded cheerful and optimistic as he greeted Trudeau, joking that the Canadian leader had suddenly agreed to drop all trade barriers with the United States. Both men laughed.

Trump said he thinks there will be a unified statement from all seven leaders when the meeting ends Saturday, but he did not elaborate. He later said he and Trudeau had a “very, very good meeting on NAFTA,” a separate trade issue from Trump’s complaints about the Europeans.

Trump was similarly upbeat as he prepared to sit down for his rescheduled meeting with Macron later Friday.

“We’ve had really a very good relationship, very special. A lot of people wrote a couple of things that weren’t quite true – a little bit accurate, perhaps – we’ve had a little test every once in a while when it comes to trade,” Trump said.

“The United States has had a very big trade deficit for many years with the European Union and we are working it out and Emmanuel’s been very helpful in that regard,” Trump said.


Trump’s suggestion to readmit Russia faced heavy, bipartisan criticism from U.S. lawmakers. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Trump of “turning our foreign policy into an international joke” while Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., – the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and among the first lawmakers to call for Russia’s ejection from what was then the G-8 – slammed the moves, as well.

“Vladimir Putin chose to make Russia unworthy of membership in the G-8 by invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea,” McCain said in a statement. “Nothing he has done since then has changed that most obvious fact.”

In the past several months, Trump has pushed to completely overturn many of the post-World War II institutions put in place to strengthen global ties. These tensions have created immense strain ahead of the summit in Canada, with top leaders questioning if they are in the midst of a transformational disruption brought on by the United States.

“The rules-based international order is being challenged,” European Commission President Donald Tusk told reporters here. “Quite surprisingly, not by the usual suspects but by its main architect and guarantor, the U.S. … We will not stop trying to convince our American friends and President Trump that undermining this order makes no sense at all.”

In response to Trump’s proposal for Russia, Tusk said it would only make the group more divisive.