Mr. Trump’s advocacy for Russian membership in the G-7 was in keeping with his against-the-grain attitude toward Moscow. He has repeatedly spoken in flattering terms about Mr. Putin of Russia and pushed for closer relations.
During a telephone call after Mr. Putin’s re-election, widely deemed a sham by the rest of the world, Mr. Trump congratulated him on his victory even though his staff had written “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” on a briefing document. He also suggested that he would invite Mr. Putin for a summit meeting at the White House, to the chagrin of policymakers who have been trying to isolate Russia.
At the same time, in recent months, Mr. Trump has allowed other members of his administration to voice sharp criticism of Russia and, however reluctantly, authorized sanctions in response to its intervention in the 2016 presidential election and cyberattacks. He ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and the closure of its consulate in Seattle after the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
But he privately complained that he was being pushed to do more than he wanted. When Nikki R. Haley, his ambassador to the United Nations, announced that new sanctions would be imposed on Russia for supporting Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own people, Mr. Trump publicly contradicted her and refused to authorize the move.
In speaking with reporters on Friday, Mr. Trump insisted that he has been tough on Moscow, even more than Hillary Clinton would have been had she won the 2016 election. “I have been Russia’s worst nightmare,” he said. “If Hillary got in — I think Putin is probably going, man, I wish Hillary won.”
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, speaking with Russian journalists accompanying Mr. Putin on a trip to China, expressed indifference to the idea of Russia being readmitted to the G-7. “We are putting emphasis on different formats,” Mr. Peskov said.