Trump’s G7 Putin Play

Why would President Trump want Russia back in the G7?

“Russia was ejected from the G8 grouping under Mr Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama in 2014 following the country’s annexation of Crimea. Mr Putin’s reputation in G7 capitals has since only sunk further following allegations of election interference and incidents including the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in the UK city of Salisbury this year.

But Mr Trump said on Friday: “Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, we have a world to run and in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.””

“Donald Trump Clashes With America’s G7 Allies Over Russia And Trade” | The Financial Times | Sam Fleming and Jim Pickard | 06/09/2018

What’s in it for him? And what connection could there be between Trump’s wish and the latest round of tariffs placed on Canada, Mexico, and EU countries?

A few speculations based purely on circumstantial evidence and connected dots:

1) Russia was pushed out of what was then the G8 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) because of the invasion and annexation of Crimea. In true nationalist fashion, for Trump to suggest that Russia should be reinstated is essentially to say that invading and annexing Crimea was OK. It also says that the Little Green Men running around the region are no big deal. As such it’s quite easy to think of Trump making the same move were he in Putin’s shoes.

2) What Trump is ultimately saying is that if Russia violating its neighbor’s sovereign borders is no big deal, and not worthy of international condemnation, then maybe we should lift the sanctions slapped on Russia in 2014. That move would also justify not moving decisively to implement new Russia sanctions already passed by Congress, a process Trump tried to stall.

3) Its economy half the size of California’s, lifting sanctions would open Russia again to investment from international oligarchs, many of whom are friends of you know who.  

4) Although an end to NATO eastern expansion, as well as an end to a unipolar world are Russia’s long-term goals, an end to the sanctions regime is Russia’s most important short term goal. While the immediate effect of its information operations in western elections has been the sowing of political and cultural division, I’ve sometimes wondered if Russia’s ultimate goal is to sway American leadership, particularly the top, towards its interests. Remember that even before Trump took the oath of office, his then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had already engaged Russian officials in discussions about sanctions. A whistleblower said that Flynn promised that sanctions would be “ripped up.”

5) Let’s put all this together into some high-octane speculation. What if Trump (4th dimensional chess player that many one-dimensional checkers players think he is) tries to use the tariffs he’s slapped on America’s allies as bargaining chips in a deal to lift Russian sanctions? (“You lift the sanctions, I’ll lift the tariffs.”) In short, what if these tariffs are really sanctions? The point would be to show Europe who’s boss while also weakening seventy year-old alliances as American unipolarity withers away, replaced by a tripartite divvying up of the parts of the world that matter by Trump’s America, Putin’s Russia, and Xi’s China. This is the “we” he might’ve been referring to when he said, “we have a world to run.”

IMAGE SOURCE: kremlin-3393439_1920 (Creative Commons)

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