President Donald Trump on Friday called for Russia to be invited back to meetings of global economic powers, a statement that could further isolate him from American allies.
Moscow got pushed out of the group of G-8 nations following its annexation of Crimea in 2014. The move prompted global condemnation and multilateral economic sanctions.
"They threw Russia out, they should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table," the president said Friday as he prepared to leave for the G-7 summit in Quebec City.
The remarks likely will not help the Trump's already tense relations with key allies in Europe, who have harshly criticized Russia's intervention in Ukraine. His move to put tariffs on Canadian and European Union steel and aluminum has left him at odds with foreign heads of state as he tries to get trading partners to change alleged unfair practices.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters Friday that officials from European Union countries at the summit agreed that the conditions have not yet been met for Russia to rejoin the group of countries.
However, one European leader agrees with Trump. Giuseppe Conte, the new Italian prime minister who is skeptical of European Union membership and supports removing sanctions on Russia, tweeted that he also wants Moscow back at the table.
Trump's comments also will not help to reduce accusations at home that he is too friendly with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin. He has repeatedly called for better relations with Moscow even as congressional committees and a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department investigate Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
In a statement Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tied Trump's remarks to the Russian efforts in 2016. He said Trump's "support for inviting Russia back into the G-7, just after they meddled in the election to support his campaign, will leave millions of Americans with serious questions and suspicions."
Before calling for Moscow to be reinstated in the talks, Trump aimed to pre-empt allegations that he is too lenient with Russia.
"I have been Russia's worst nightmare," he said, contending that Moscow would have been elated if Democrat Hillary Clinton had won the presidency.
Beyond Democrats, Sen. John McCain criticized Trump's desire to have Russia rejoin the group of economic powers. The Arizona Republican said Putin "chose to make Russia unworthy of membership in the G-8" and "nothing he has done since then has changed that most obvious fact."
"The President has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies," McCain said in a statement. "Those nations that share our values and have sacrificed alongside us for decades are being treated with contempt. This is the antithesis of so-called 'principled realism' and a sure path to diminishing America's leadership in the world."
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., flatly tweeted: "No, Russia should not be added to the G-7." Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., also called Trump's posture "weak" and added that "Putin is not our friend and he is not the president's buddy," according to CNN.
Before Trump's statements Friday morning, G-7 allies even threatened to distance themselves from Washington. French President Emmanuel Macron said the group's six other members — France, Canada, Italy, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom — could exclude Trump from a joint statement following the summit.
"The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be. 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," Macron tweeted.
Trump has lashed out at global trading partners ahead of the meetings in Canada. He contends barriers put up by allies have damaged American companies and workers.
"Looking forward to straightening out unfair Trade Deals with the G-7 countries. If it doesn't happen, we come out even better!" the president tweeted on Friday morning.
Trump and Macron were set for a bilateral meeting Friday morning amid the tensions, but Trump appeared to arrive in Canada too late to attend. The White House said it is working on rescheduling it.
On Thursday night, he called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "indignant" for bringing up the strong relationship between the U.S. and Canada — despite trade practices that the president alleged hurt American farmers.
On Friday, Trump once again said he would scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement if the U.S., Canada and Mexico cannot strike a revised deal. His administration says failure to reach a new agreement contributed to its decision not to exempt Canada and Mexico from the tariffs on metals.