Russian President Vladimir Putin has managed to stage a massive turnaround yet again. Putin showered praise on former US President Donald Trump, at a time when the G-7 summit was taking place. And the next thing we know, the group of the world’s seven advanced economies called the G-7 take on China in an unprecedented show of unity on the subject.
The focus of the 47th G-7 summit was on China, and the usual anti-Russia rhetoric wasn’t the central agenda. Behind the curtains, a shrewd Putin made a very sharp move. When most of the G-7 countries were working against China, Putin gave a subtle message that if you can bring back Trump’s anti-China policies, Russia could be a partner against China.
Truth be told, Russia does not like the G-7 countries. These countries have always been anti-Russia as a bloc under American leadership. And then, Germany keeps pushing anti-Russia propaganda within the G-7. In fact, G-7 was once the ‘G-8’ with Russia as a member but it was disgraced and removed from the exclusive club in 2014. So, there is just too much bitter history.
But when the G-7 met for its 47th summit, Putin foresaw how US President Joe Biden wanted to use the summit for his anti-Russia propaganda. On the other hand, Japan, the UK and France were eager to make the G-7 summit in Cornwall, UK, look like a show of strength against Chinese hegemony.
As per POLITICO, a senior US administration official suggested that France was willing to single out China over its forced labour practices. Japan too was reportedly interested in bringing the Taiwan issue on the G-7 agenda.
Since at least three G-7 countries were keen on discussing China rather than whining about Russia, Putin thought of playing his big card- Donald John Trump. Putin gave his first interview to an American news network on Friday – the same day on which the G-7 summit started.
The Russian President told NBC’s, Keir Simmons, “Well even now, I believe that former U.S. president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. president.” Putin used some adulatory adjectives for Trump like “extraordinary”, “talented” and “colorful”.
What Putin said must be understood in the larger context. He was endorsing Trump’s policy of treating China as the bigger threat and an outright US enemy. Trump was ready to cooperate with Russia and isolate China – a policy that Biden reversed after coming to power. The incumbent US President tends to look towards Russia as a US enemy while considering China as some sort of a competitor.
For Russia, Biden’s accession to power was a setback for understandable reasons. So, Putin decided to give a subtle message to the G-7- Russia isn’t the villain, China surely is. By praising Trump, Putin was actually giving a soft signal to the G-7.
So, if the G-7 countries can make a few compromises in their policies, Russia will cooperate with the free world in handling the formidable challenge it faces in the form of growing Chinese belligerence. In fact, Putin carried another subtle message. While he praised Donald Trump’s policies, the Russian President also suggested that he can work with Joe Biden.
So, all is not lost. Even today the West can drive a wedge between Russia and China, pull Moscow out of the isolation it has been facing for years and isolate Beijing instead. And in all fairness, it seems that Putin’s strategy has worked. The way G-7 became a show of unity against China shows how Putin has succeeded.