US President Donald Trump has postponed a planned G7 summit slated to happen in June, but has invited Russia to attend the rescheduled meeting in September in New York.
Trump, keen to show the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic-related lockdown is coming to an end, called for a G7 meeting to be held at one of his hotels in Florida in June, but was forced to postpone when German Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to attend, because of the ongoing coronacrisis. A G7 summit without Merkel’s attendance would be meaningless.
“The federal chancellor thanks President Trump for his invitation to the G7 summit at the end of June in Washington. As of today, considering the overall pandemic situation, she cannot agree to her personal participation, [and] to a journey to Washington,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said according to reports. “She will of course continue to monitor the development of the pandemic.”
Trump has caused outrage in many quarters by inviting Russia to attend the meeting, making it back up to the G8. Russia’s membership in the informal club was suspended after the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.
The Kremlin has been ambivalent about its expulsion from the G8, saying that it is now an irrelevance, as the G20 has become the leading global forum where Russia is still a leading member. However, Russia’s return to the G8 meetings would clearly be a PR coup for the Kremlin if it were to go ahead.
And as both Germany and French President Emmanuel Macron have reached out to Russia in the last year, seeking a reset in relations, it may well happen. Macron attended the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in 2018 as Putin’s guest in a gesture of reconciliation that was widely criticised by some.
Trump made the announcement on Saturday and said that he wanted to invite Russia as part of an alliance to discuss the future of China. Trump said he also wanted to invite South Korea, Australia and India, also in the context of discussing relations with China.
“We want Australia, we want India, we want South Korea,” Trump said as cited by the New York Times. “And what do we have? That’s a nice group of countries right there.”
Trump suggested these countries may form a new G10 or G11 group. He plans to hold this meeting in September at the same time as the UN General Assembly, which is slated for September 15. However, he also said the meeting may happen in November after the US election.
Trump is up for re-election this year and given his abysmal performance in dealing with a number of crises, most recently the coronacrisis, his re-election strategy is transparently to bash China and whip up an “enemy at the gate” atmosphere behind which he expects his base to rally, very similar to Putin’s highly successful strategy after the sanctions regime was imposed on Russia by the international community in 2014.
Separately, while there have been some reports blaming Russia for whipping up tempters as part of the current violent protests sweeping the US over the killing of George Floyd by the police, the use of Russia as a scapegoat has noticeably diminished in US political rhetoric ever since the Mueller report was released, largely exonerating Russia of collusion.
While Trump remains friendly to Moscow, the rest of the House and Congress is not. As bne IntelliNews reports, a bipartisan bill is likely to be submitted this week that imposes new and stringent sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in an effort to kill the project off once and for all.