LA MALBAIE, Canada — Italys new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, broke sharply with the EU on Friday at his first international summit, and joined U.S. President Donald Trumps call for Russia to be reinstated to the exclusive club of industrialized nations.
Trump called for Russias reinstatement as he left the White House to travel to the G7 leaders meeting in Quebec.
The Western powers and Japan ejected Russia from the G8 in 2014 in response to the Kremlins invasion, and subsequent annexation, of Crimea.
Conte posted his support for Trumps view on Twitter, apparently between meetings with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Its unclear if Tusk or Juncker were aware of Contes statement before their meetings.
Since Russias ejection, Western nations, including the U.S. and all EU countries, have been unified in the need to maintain economic sanctions and other pressure on Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine, in Crimea and in the eastern Donbas region, where the Kremlin continues to support an armed insurgency.
Other G7 powers have not indicated any willingness to ease the pressure on Russia.
Contes statement adds further diplomatic chaos to the G7 leaders summit, which was already descending into a chaotic war of words on Twitter. Trump on Thursday lashed out at the summit host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who criticized Trump for imposing unilateral tariffs on steel and aluminum.
While Trump was still traveling, and expected to arrive late at the summit, his comment calling for Russia to be reinstated is certain to further inflame tensions in Quebec. Other G7 powers have not indicated any willingness to ease the pressure on Russia, and the EUs foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has worked hard to maintain unity on the issue in Brussels.
Contes statement will be especially problematic for Mogherini, who is Italian.
Russia had been scheduled to host the G8 summit in 2014, and was planning to hold the leaders gathering in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which was also the site of the Winter Olympics that year. Instead, officials quickly rescheduled the G7 summit for Brussels, the capital of the European Union, which participates in both the G7 and the G20 but normally does not host summits. Russian remains a part of the G20.
— GiuseppeConte (@GiuseppeConteIT) June 8, 2018
An international investigative team led by the Netherlands recently announced that a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet, flight MH17, that was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014 was destroyed by a Russian missile supplied by a specific military unit in southern Russia. And France and Germany, the main architects of the Minsk 2 peace accord between Russia and Ukraine, have consistently reported no substantive progress in implementation of the agreement by Russia.
Putin has continued to deny any Russian role in the MH17 incident, in which all the passengers were killed. Putin initially denied that Russian military forces had invaded Crimea but later acknowledged that they had done so, and even bestowed awards on soldiers who participated in the operation.