Sen. (R-Ariz.) excoriated on Friday for calling on Russia to be invited back to the Group of Seven, blasting the move as the “antithesis” of principled realism and “a sure path to diminishing America’s leadership in the world.”
He became the third Republican senator to condemn Trump’s statement that the G-7, a group of major industrial powers, should not be meeting this weekend in Quebec without Russia.
McCain contrasted Trump’s friendly words for Russia to his hard-line negotiating tactics with allies such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union on trade.
“The president has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies,” McCain said in a statement.
“Those nations that share our values and have sacrificed alongside us for decades are being treated with contempt. This is the antithesis of so-called ‘principled realism’ and a sure path to diminishing America’s leadership in the world,” he added.
Russia was suspended from the G-7 in 2014 after it annexed Crimea in what Western countries saw as a gross violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty.
McCain was one of the first lawmakers in Congress to call for Russia to be ejected from what was then the G-8 after it was accused of committing atrocities during the Chechen war.
He backed legislation in 2003 urging then President George W. Bush to suspend Russia’s membership in the G-8.
Trump sparked a controversy before departing for Canada Friday by declaring that Russia should be at the negotiating table.
“Why are we having a meeting with Russia being in the meeting?” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“I would recommend – and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting, it should be a part of it,” he said. “Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run.”
Two Republican senators criticized Trump immediately after his comments.
“Putin is not our friend and he is not the president’s buddy. He is a thug using Soviet-style aggression to wage a shadow war against America, and our leadership should act like it,” he added, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Democratic leaders quickly attacked Trump’s statement.
“Now watch President Trump grovel at the feet of our adversary and punish our strongest allies,” Durbin tweeted.