At the Group of Seven meeting in Biarritz, France, there are, in effect, two different summits under way—one that’s happening in President Donald Trump’s mind, and another that is actually happening on the ground; there’s the summit Trump is trying to will into existence, and the summit unfolding in real time.
To hear Trump tell it, predictions that the weekend summit would be contentious were all wrong. Only the “Fake and Disgusting News” would conclude that his relations with the other leaders meeting in the coastal resort were “very tense,” he tweeted, when in fact, they were “getting along very well.” His counterparts, he insists, are coming forward and agreeing with him that it’s a good idea to readmit Russia to the group, he said today (it was tossed out in 2014 after it annexed Crimea). He’s hearing broad support for his trade dispute with China and a lunch visit yesterday with Emmanuel Macron was the best he’s had yet with his French counterpart, he said.
Yet in none of these instances does Trump’s version of events hold up. Pressed to name the other leaders who endorse the notion of letting Russia back in, for example, Trump demurred. “I could, but I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. Trump’s account is even at odds with what his own government has been telling reporters: One U.S. official said that the leaders agreed that the country wasn’t yet deserving of an invitation, according to The Wall Street Journal. A foreign diplomat who represents one of the G7 nations told me, speaking on condition of anonymity, that Russia has done nothing since its banishment that would warrant its inclusion in a club of advanced economies with democratic systems. What’s more, senior administration officials told reporters last week, before Trump left for France, that Russia hadn’t even asked to be readmitted to the G7.