Trump raises Russia return as he heads to G7 in France

Before the leaders of the G7 nations had even boarded their flights for the meeting in Biarritz, France, President Donald Trump was already stirring the political pot associated with the meeting of western allies, making it clear he wants to see Russia return to the group, after being exiled in 2014 over the seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine.

"We spend a lot of time talking about Russia at those meetings," the President told reporters this week. "And they're not there. I think it would be a good thing if Russia were there so we can speak directly."

Russia was a member of what was then known as the 'Group of Eight' - but Moscow was booted out in 2014 after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.

"President Obama thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in," Mr. Trump said to reporters. "But I think it's much more appropriate to have Russia in."

But there seems to be little chance of that happening in the current political environment in Europe, especially with Russian backed forces fighting in Ukraine.

During a meeting with Vladimir Putin earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron made clear his opposition to such a move proposed by President Trump, arguing that Russia must first address Crimea - and the ongoing proxy war pushed by Russian backed forces inside Ukraine - before any such change is made.

"In effect, the resolution of this conflict is a magic wand that will open the door for Russia to return to the G7 club," Macron said .

With the two leaders seated before reporters, Macron labeled the Ukraine situation an 'irritant' in Russian relations with the West.

"It is obvious that the return to the G8 format and normal relations with the EU requires the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis," Macron added.

Last year, the 2018 meeting of world leaders from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, ended in odd fashion, when President Trump suddenly left the meeting early, refusing to endorse a joint communique by the leaders.

In order to avoid a dispute along those lines in 2019, Macron has decided there will not be a joint communique issued by the G-7.

It will be the first time since the meetings began in the 1970's that the group will not issue a statement of joint goals.

White House officials previewing the President's trip said much of his focus at the G-7 will be on free, fair and reciprocal trade, as he has often criticized Canada and the European Union of unfair trade barriers to U.S. exports.

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