President Trump said on Saturday that he planned to postpone the annual Group of 7 summit of world leaders until September and that he wanted to invite Russia to rejoin as part of an alliance to discuss the future of China.
Mr. Trump told reporters traveling with him aboard Air Force One on his way back from Florida, where he attended the launch of the SpaceX shuttle, that he also planned to invite South Korea, Australia and India to the meeting to discuss China’s future.
“I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Mr. Trump said, according to a pool report of his remarks. “It’s a very outdated group of countries.”
The United States currently holds the presidency of the Group of 7 industrialized nations, which also includes Germany, Japan, France, Britain, Canada and Italy.
“We want Australia, we want India, we want South Korea,” Mr. Trump said. “And what do we have? That’s a nice group of countries right there.”
Mr. Trump made the announcement not long after Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany had suggested she wouldn’t attend a summit held in Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The president’s saying he would invite Russia — which was indefinitely suspended from the group in 2014 after the annexing of Crimea from Ukraine — could inflame other member nations.
Mr. Trump has previously floated the idea of asking Russia to rejoin, but other member nations have opposed the suggestion, and their approval would be required.
Still, as the host president, Mr. Trump is allowed to invite whoever he wants. And by making Russia one of four countries he said he wants to invite, it means that Russia would be a guest, the way it was before it formally joined the group in the mid-1990s.
Mr. Trump at one point described the theoretical gathering as the “G10 or G11,” which would mean making those countries members — something he cannot do on his own. He said he had had conversations with the leaders of those countries.
At one point Mr. Trump suggested he would host the summit in September, possibly around the time of the United Nations General Assembly, which is slated to begin Sept. 15 in New York, a city that is scheduled to begin its first phase of reopening from coronavirus shutdowns on June 8. At another point, Mr. Trump mused that he might schedule the summit for after the November general election.
Russia’s status in what was then the G8 was a source of consternation for other member nations in 2014, some of whom disagreed on how to punish Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, for aggression in Crimea.
Mr. Putin last visited the United States for an event that was unrelated to the U.N. General Assembly in 2007, when President George W. Bush invited him to the Bush family compound at Kennebunkport, Maine. Mr. Putin, through advisers, has been pushing for another invitation to the United States since 2018. In July of that year, Mr. Trump stunned his director of national intelligence at the time, Dan Coats, when he announced he planned to invite Mr. Putin to visit in the fall. That visit never took place.
Inviting countries with geopolitical significance to discuss China, a country that Mr. Trump has seen as a competitor and an adversary, gives the president a rationale to host Mr. Putin. But the sight of Mr. Putin appearing in the United States two months before the presidential election, after the U.S. intelligence community determined that Russia interfered in the previous one to benefit Mr. Trump, will inflame his critics and risk discomfiting some of his Republican allies.
Even before Mr. Trump’s announcement Saturday, the planning of the summit has fueled months of drama. Mr. Trump had previously suggested holding the summit in June. At the time, officials said it would be held virtually because of the pandemic.
But in late May, Mr. Trump suggested holding the event at Camp David, the rustic presidential retreat that the president has visited only periodically during his term.
It is not only the invitees that have been a source of drama at the U.S.-hosted summit. In October, Mr. Trump announced he would host the summit at one of his private clubs, the Trump National Doral near Miami.
That prompted a widespread outcry from critics, including some Republicans, who said that Mr. Trump had crossed a line in trying to hold that kind of event at one of his properties, where he would ostensibly profit off the spending of taxpayer funds to host the event and receive free publicity. World leader summits like the G7 typically involve hundreds of officials and support personnel and elaborate security measures.
He then said he would host it at Camp David instead.
Last August, Mr. Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the summit.
“I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “I could certainly see it being the G8 again.”
He said at the time that a rationale for readmitting Russia was that “a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia.”
During his presidential campaign, in July 2016, Mr. Trump was dismissive about objections to the Russian incursion into Ukraine during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC News.
“The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Stephanopoulos. “And you have to look at that, also.”