Indeed, it was taken by foreign diplomats, veterans of American foreign policy and lawmakers of both parties in Congress as yet another sign that Trump — who also boasted this week that he doesn’t need to prepare much for his nuclear summit on Tuesday with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — is winging it with potentially dangerous consequences.
It “gives the Kremlin one more opportunity to take advantage of divisions” between the U.S. and other G-7 nations, said Bob Hormats, who worked in high-level jobs at the National Security Council and the State Department in several administrations.
While new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte backed Trump on Russia, the rest of the G-7 has little interest in rewarding a nation that was expelled in 2014 for annexing Crimea.
Because of that — and because Congress won’t let Trump get very far in bilateral discussions with Russia — the embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin “could only be a diversionary tactic to disrupt things,” Hormats said.
And there’s good reason for Trump to want to upend the table and reposition all the pieces. His trade battles with allies, including Canada and the European Union, have left the U.S. isolated at these talks. As a result, Trump’s in danger of being faced with the choice of either being excluded from any agreement on economic and security issues or joining with nations he says are cheating American workers.
“The American president may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”
Trump said Friday that he thinks they will find consensus. “I think we’ll have a joint statement,” he said.
And yet the president has sent signals that it’s the G-7 that needs the U.S., not the other way around. He showed up late enough Friday that he had to reschedule one bilateral meeting and planned to leave early enough Saturday to miss G-7 sessions, leaving an aide to represent America in the final discussions. He even clipped his already abbreviated Saturday morning schedule, arriving nearly 20 minutes late for a breakfast discussion on gender equality.