European leaders are fighting back against U.S. President Donald Trump after the American leader threw a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations into disarray by withdrawing his endorsement of a statement he initially had accepted.
Late on June 9, Trump tweeted that based on “false statements” by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who hosted the G7 summit in Quebec, he had instructed U.S. representatives not to endorse the final communique, which the Canadian leader had said was agreed to by all G7 nations.
Trump didn’t elaborate on which statements were false and Trudeau’s office released a statement quoting the prime minister as saying that he had said nothing at the G7 that he hasn’t told Trump in person and voiced publicly before.
The communique expressed the need for trade cooperation, took a hard line on Russia, and stressed the importance of containing Iran's nuclear program.
“PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’
“Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!” Trump wrote.
"I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!" he added.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement on June 10 that his country continued to support the "jointly agreed communique" despite Trump's decision to back away, while an EU official was quoted by Reuters as responding to Trump's tweets by saying that "we stick to the communique as agreed by all participants."
In Paris, a French presidency official said France and Europe stood by the G7 communique and anyone departing from the commitments made at the summit would be showing their "incoherence and inconsistency."
"International cooperation cannot depend on being angry and on sound bites. Let's be serious," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The eight-page G7 communique issued earlier stated that “we stand ready to take further restrictive measures to increase costs on Russia” if its behavior makes it necessary.
It also demanded that Russia "cease its destabilizing behavior, to undermine democratic systems, and its support of the Syrian regime."
The communique was issued after tumultuous summit that mainly had Washington squaring off against its longtime allies over Russia, trade, climate issues, and the Iran nuclear accord.
Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed criticism by the G7 as "creative babbling" and said at a summit in China on June 10 that it was time for all sides to resume cooperation.
"I believe it's necessary to stop this creative babbling and shift to concrete issues related to real cooperation," Putin told reporters when asked to comment on the joint statement.
He added that the G7 countries had "again" failed to provide any evidence that Russia was behind the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain in March.
Because of the disputes, many observers were not certain a statement would be issued under all seven countries' names. Still, the meeting did not appear to bring the sides much closer together.
The G7 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the United States.
Trump had shocked many of allies with repeated calls for Russia to be readmitted into the group, which was known as the G8 when Moscow was a member of the association of the world’s leading industrial nations.
Trump told journalists on June 9 that "it would be an asset to have Russia back in."
In response, Putin said on June 10 that Russia did not choose to leave the group and would be happy to see its member countries in Moscow. He also said he's ready to meet with Trump once the White House is ready for a summit.
European Union countries, which make up four of the group's seven members, agreed ahead of the summit that "a return of Russia to the G7-format summits can't happen until substantial progress has been made in connection with the problems with Ukraine," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said as the summit began on June 8.
At the summit's end, Trudeau said he told Trump that he was "not remotely interested" in seeing Russia return to the G7.
British Prime Minister Theresa May also welcomed that the G7 statement recognized the need to maintain sanctions on Russia.
The statement made no reference to Russia being invited back into the G7, but the leaders did say they would continue "to engage with Russia on addressing regional crises and global challenges, where it is in our interests."
Russia was expelled from the group four years ago after annexing Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and fueling a war in eastern Ukraine that has killed at least 10,300 people.
Trump was asked if he thought Russia's control over Crimea should be recognized by the international community, but he avoided answering directly and instead blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for the situation.
"Crimea was let go during the Obama administration and, you know, Obama can say all he wants, but he allowed Russia to take Crimea," Trump said.
"But, with that being said," he added, "it's been done a long time."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on June 9 said Moscow was not seeking to rejoin the group. He added that Russia was "working fine in other formats," such as the G20.
Although Merkel said the “common view" in Europe was to continue to exclude Russia, Italy's new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, echoed Trump's call for returning Russia to the "negotiating table" in a post on Twitter.
U.S. allies said they were stunned by Trump's friendly gesture toward Russia, especially considering his move last month to cite "national security" reasons for threatening to impose tariffs on the steel imports of major U.S. allies.
Many U.S. lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, have also expressed concern about Trump's departure from past U.S. views on trade, Russia, and the international order. Trump has been open on his desires for better relations with Moscow.
Republican Senator John McCain, who has been at loggerheads with Trump over many issues lately, tweeted his displeasure at the president’s actions in Quebec.
“To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t,” he wrote.
The wrangling over whether Russia should be welcomed back into the G7 came as the summit took place amid the sharpest divisions in recent history between the United States and its top allies.
In the comments that later angered Trump, Trudeau closed the summit with a strong rebuke to the U.S. president’s threats on trade, saying they were “kind of insulting” and warning that Canada would issue retaliatory measures beginning on July 1.
“Canadians are polite and reasonable, but we will not be pushed around,” Trudeau told reporters.
May reiterated the need to avoid tit-for-tat actions in a trade dispute between the EU and the United States. But she added that Britain had expressed its "deep disappointment at the unjustified decision by the U.S. to apply tariffs to EU steel and aluminum imports."
The G7 leaders also said they were "committed to permanently ensuring that Iran's nuclear program remains peaceful in line with its international obligations and commitments to never seek, develop, or acquire a nuclear weapon."
"We condemn all financial support of terrorism including terrorist groups sponsored by Iran. We also call upon Iran to play a constructive role by contributing to efforts to counter terrorism and achieve political solutions, reconciliation, and peace in the region," the statement added.
It did not specifically mention the 2015 nuclear accord, which provided Tehran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. Trump withdrew from the pact in May against the wishes of the allies and Russia and China.