(CNSNews.com) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday gave a cautiously positive response to President Trump’s calls for his country’s readmission to what used to be the G8, and played down what he called the “internal problems” in the G7 following the forum’s tumultuous summit in Canada.
Putin also said he was ready for a face-to-face meeting with Trump “as soon as the U.S. side is ready.”
Speaking to Russian reporters in China, he repeated recent statements that a meeting between himself and Trump would be useful.
“The president of the United States has repeatedly said that he considers this meeting expedient, and I agree that this is indeed the case.”
In their most recent phone conversation, he said, Trump had expressed concern about the threat of a renewed arms race, and added, “I agree with him.”
Putin said the Russian foreign ministry and State Department need to work together, but that “personal meetings are certainly necessary as well.”
“As soon as the American side is ready, this meeting will be held immediately, depending on my work schedule.”
Putin said the “specific content” of such a summit was more important that technicalities like choice of venue. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz recently offered to host a Putin-Trump meeting in Vienna.
The Russian president was speaking after a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao, China, which in contrast to the G7 gathering in Quebec presented a show of unity among members of the eight-nation Asian economic and security grouping.
The G7 is a forum of the world’s most advanced economies, comprising the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. Russia was admitted into what became the G8 in 1998 but was suspended in 2014 in response to its annexation of Crimea.
Ahead of the G7 summit, Trump dismayed France, Britain and Germany by questioning the 2014 decision to suspend Russia, saying the group “should let Russia back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
Of the leaders who met in Canada, Italy’s newly-sworn-in prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, alone seemed supportive of the idea, saying on Twitter that Russia’s readmission would be in everyone’s interests.
At the time of Russia’s suspension, Putin had been preparing to host the G8 summit in Sochi that summer. Instead the reformatted G7 met in Brussels. Russia from the outset sought to minimize the decision, saying the G20 – which brings together established and rising economic powers – was more significant anyway.
Asked in Qingdao about Trump’s call to readmit Russia, Putin said his country had never withdrawn from the forum.
“Our colleagues refused to come to Russia at some point, for well-known reasons. We would be happy to see everyone in Moscow, they are welcome.”
The G7 summit, roiled by Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico, ended with the president withdrawing his support for the traditional joint communique and calling the host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “dishonest.”
Putin said it was evident there were “internal problems” in the G7 but added, “it happens,” and noted that “we also have disputes” inside the Eurasian Economic Union, a Russia-led regional integration project launched in 2014.
Putin said that more significant than “emotional outbursts” at the G7 was Trump’s consideration of tariffs on cars imported into the United States.
“This is a serious matter. This can really hurt the economic interests of so many countries, above all European, of course,” he said. “Well, let us see how things will really unfold. This is of significant importance for the entire world economy.”
The G7 summit ended with a communique which included calls on Russia to “cease its destabilizing behavior,” citing its support for the Assad regime, intervention in Ukraine, and allegations that Russia was responsible for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.
Asked to comment on those elements in the statement, Putin declined.
“I do not actually think it is part of my job to comment on everything that happens at the G7,” he said. “It seems to me that we must abandon all this creative chatter and turn specifically to issues of real cooperation.”
The SCO, an economic and security grouping dominated by China and Russia, also includes Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and newcomers India and Pakistan.