Date
28 April 2017
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrive for a news conference following their talks in Moscow. Photo: Reuters
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrive for a news conference following their talks in Moscow. Photo: Reuters

US-Russia relations at new low after Syria attacks

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday trust had eroded between the United States and Russia under President Donald Trump as Moscow delivered an unusually hostile reception to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a face-off over Syria, Reuters reports.

Any hope in Russia that the Trump administration would herald less confrontational relations has been dashed in the past week after the new US leader fired missiles at Syria to punish Moscow’s ally for its suspected use of poison gas.

In Washington, Trump said the United States was not getting along “at all” with Moscow, adding that the relationship “may be at an all-time low”.

Trump had frequently called during the 2016 US presidential election campaign for warmer ties with Putin, despite criticism from lawmakers in his own Republican Party.

But the civil war in Syria has driven a wedge between Moscow and Washington, upending what many in Russia hoped would be a transformation in relations, which reached a post-Cold War low under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.

As Tillerson sat down for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, a senior Russian official assailed the “primitiveness and loutishness” of US rhetoric, part of a volley of statements that appeared timed to maximize the awkwardness during the first visit to Moscow by a member of Trump’s cabinet.

“One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved but has rather deteriorated,” Putin said in an interview broadcast on Russian television.

He doubled down on Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, repeating denials that Assad’s government was to blame for the gas attack last week and adding a new theory that it may have been faked by Assad’s enemies.

Tillerson reiterated the US position that Assad must eventually relinquish power in Syria.

“We discussed our view that Russia as their closest ally in the conflict perhaps has the best means of helping Assad recognize this reality,” he said.

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