Tillerson Says Relations With Russia Have Reached a 'Low Point'

by Fredrick Graves April 17, 2017, 4:57
Tillerson Says Relations With Russia Have Reached a 'Low Point'

One day after US cruise missiles destroyed Syrian jets, fuel and radars at the Sharyat air base, Russia withdrew from the so-called "deconfliction line", which is a military-to-military daily phone call used since late 2015 to communicate the locations of USA and Russian air and ground forces in Syria.

Russian Federation blocked a Western effort at the UN Security Council on Wednesday to condemn last week's deadly gas attack in Syria and push Moscow's ally President Bashar al-Assad to cooperate with global inquiries into the incident. The jet dropped sarin on the western Syrian village of Khan Sheikhoun, killing at least 70 civilians. "Russian Federation is open to dialogues with the U.S.in different areas, and not only to dialogues but also to joint actions", he said.

Tillerson said the two countries had agreed to set up a "working group" to coordinate on "smaller issues".

After a campaign marked by friendly comments about Russia, President Donald Trump sounded a different note on Wednesday about the current state of U.S. -Russia affairs.

But Trump did not seem to change in his assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Trump has spoken of admiringly in the past.

He named two conditions.

The Russians used Tillerson's visit as a chance to reassert Moscow's firm stance on Syria: that it will not abide by any effort to remove Assad from power. The second condition was the United States conduct no additional strikes on government targets.

Then, after Mr. Putin did grant him a 75-minute audience, Mr. Tillerson had to sit silently as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov used a joint press conference to deliver a prolonged lecture about what he considers the many errors of US foreign policy, from NATO's 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia through the 2003 invasion of Iraq up to the 2011 bombing of Moammar Gadhafi's Libya.

"We should listen carefully to how Prime Minister Medvedev characterizes the state of the US-Russia relationship, since he is considered to be the most pro-Western person in the Putin administration", said Elizabeth Murray, a Central Intelligence Agency officer with a 27-year career who specialised in Middle East media and political analysis. "I would like to think that they didn't know, but certainly they could have".

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the veto "puts Russian Federation on the wrong side of the argument", while French President Francois Hollande warned Russian Federation it "bears a heavy responsibility" for continuing to protect Assad.

"That's a butcher. That's a butcher", Trump said of Assad.

All-time low, you say?

"Right now we're not getting along with Russian Federation at all", said a blunt President Donald Trump as tensions between the two nuclear powers continue to worsen.

On Friday, the two will join a three-way meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, another key ally of the Assad regime.

But the attack would not be the first time the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its own citizens.

Several senior administration figures have been dogged with accusations of cooperation with Russian Federation when they meddled in the 2016 presidential election, which has led to an FBI investigation and the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Russia Wednesday vetoed a Western-drafted Security Council resolution on an alleged chemical attack in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib.

Tillerson said punitive sanctions for the alleged meddling - imposed by Obama against Moscow in December - were also discussed at Wednesday's meeting.


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