Putin Likens Trump’s Tariffs to Sanctions; Tells US Allies, ‘Dinner is Served. Enjoy’

By Patrick Goodenough | June 8, 2018 | 4:21am EDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in his annual marathon call-in program, broadcast live on two Russian television channels. (Photo: The Kremlin)

(CNSNews.com) – On the eve of a G7 summit in Canada that could be awkward for President Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin took a dig at members of the bloc that has excluded him for the past four years, seemingly relishing spats over Trump’s trade tariffs and other policies.

G7 allies have signaled that they expect difficult discussions in rural Quebec, after Trump late last month imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico, ending a temporary waiver.

Canada and the European Union have reacted particularly angrily to the move, pledging to impose retaliatory tariffs. The bloc of leading industrialized countries includes Canada and E.U. member-states Britain, France, Germany and Italy. The remaining G7 member, Japan, is also affected by the tariffs, having failed to secure an earlier exemption.

Since the last G7 summit, hosted by Italy a little over a year ago, Trump has also dismayed allies by withdrawing from both the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal.

During his annual televised call-in show Thursday, Putin said he had warned European governments back in 2007 – in a provocative speech at the Munich security conference – about the dangers of the United States extending its jurisdiction beyond its national borders.

At the time, he recalled, some had called the speech inappropriate and too tough. But his warning had been borne out.

“This is exactly what is happening today, only it is happening to our European and other partners,” he said, adding that nobody had wanted to listen to him “and nobody did anything to stem this trend. So there you are.”

“Dinner is served,” he added with a wry smile. “Enjoy.”

Russia is targeted by U.S. and E.U. sanctions over its intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. For the same reason it has also been suspended since 2014 from what used to be called the G8.

Putin likened Trump’s tariffs to the sanctions faced by his country.

“Apparently, our partners thought that they would never be affected by this counter-productive [U.S.] policy involving restrictions and sanctions,” he said. “Now we see what is happening, because the introduction of tariffs on steel and aluminum from not only Europe, but also Canada and Mexico – this is sanctions, in fact. Only the words used are different, but in reality, this is the case.”

“What are they being punished for?” he continued. “Did they ‘annex Crimea’ as many of our partners say? No. This has to do with the pragmatic national interests of the United States, as its current leadership sees them.”

Putin said the rifts underlined his argument about the need to work out common, uniformly understood rules of behavior, in both the security and economic spheres.

Earlier in the marathon program Putin suggested that European and other countries were coming around to his way of thinking on U.S. policies.

“Yes, each country has its own interests, but they should not be attained through selfish political strategies, including those in the economy,” he said. “This understanding is coming to many of our partners. I hope this process will gain momentum.”

‘Family quarrel’

Some G7 leaders hope to use the summit as an opportunity to persuade Trump to relent on the tariffs.

In a phone call this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May told Trump the measures were “unjustified and deeply disappointing,” according to a readout from 10 Downing Street.

It said they agreed to discuss the impact of the tariffs and wider issues of free and fair global trade further at the summit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has predicted “contentious discussions” while French President Emmanuel Macron suggested on Twitter that the other six members of the grouping may agree on conclusions, excluding the U.S.

“The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be,” he tweeted. “Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”

Earlier, Macron’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said after a pre-summit meeting of G7 finance ministers that the gathering had been more like “a G6 plus one than a G7,” because of the tariff dispute.

In several tweets Thursday, Trump hit back at the European and Canadian criticism, accusing them of using tariffs and non-monetary trade barriers against the U.S. for years.

National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow said earlier that while “there may be disagreements” at the summit, he believed they could be worked out.

“I regard this as much like a family quarrel,” he told reporters at the White House.

Asked how Trump feels about the summit and the possibility of awkward conversations, Kudlow said that he “wants to go on the trip.”

“The president is at ease with all of these tough issues,” he said. “He’s proven himself to be a leader on the world stage. And he’s achieved great successes, I might add, in foreign policy. So I don’t think there’s any issue there at all.”

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