By Denis Pinchuk
QINGDAO, China (Reuters) – Russia did not choose to leave the G7 and would be happy to host its members in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday when asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Russia should have been at its latest meeting.
Trump said on Friday that Russia should have attended a Group of Seven summit in Canada over the weekend, an idea that even Moscow seemed to reject saying it was focused on other formats. Russia was pushed out of the then G8 due to its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea four years ago.
“We did not (choose to) leave it, our colleagues refused to come to Russia due to known reasons at some point. Please, we will be glad to see everyone here in Moscow,” Putin told reporters at a briefing in China’s city of Qingdao.
He, however, added that the combined purchasing power of the Russia and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a meeting of which he was attending in China, outstripped the G7. The latter currently includes the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany.
The G7 ended in discord on Saturday when Trump clashed with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and said he might hit the auto industry with tariffs.
Trump said in March that he and Putin would meet soon, but since then already poor ties between Washington and Moscow have deteriorated further over the conflict in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. The Kremlin has complained that efforts to organize the meeting seem frozen.
Putin said on Sunday he thought it was important that the two men meet and said he shared Trump’s concerns about the risks of an arms race developing between Russia and the United States, something he said officials from the two countries needed to discuss.
He said a meeting could take place as soon as the United States was ready and that many European countries had offered their help in making it happen.
Putin, who has previously told Europe he had warned them about the trade threat Washington posed to them, also said that if Trump imposed new tariffs on imports of foreign cars it would have serious consequences for the global economy and especially for Europe.
Trump was due to arrive in Singapore on Sunday ahead of a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; writing by Polina Devitt and Andrew Osborn; Editing by Adrian Croft/Keith Weir)