Earlier this week during the lead up to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to Russia, Tillerson made waves by suggesting that Russia was not quite “complicit” for the Syrian chemical attack but at least “incompetent” for not seeing it coming. These remarks, along with the U.S. airstrikes on Syria, were probably a major reason behind Monday’s report that Russian president Vladimir Putin would not meet directly with Tillerson like he had with his predecessor John Kerry during a previous visit. All signs pointed to Russia being upset at the U.S. and clear proof that the two countries’ relations had truly deteriorated.
All’s well that ends well though, as Putin and Tillerson met after all. The meeting occurred after a tense discussion with Tillerson’s Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in which both sides staked out positions on Syria:
“I will be frank, we have a lot of questions regarding very ambiguous and contradictory ideas on the international agenda in Washington,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after shaking hands with Tillerson and sitting down at a conference table to welcome him to Moscow, a rite typically marked by polite pleasantries. “And I’d like to say, apart from words, we saw some very alarming actions regarding the unlawful attack in Syria.”
Lavrov reiterated Russia’s position that actions like Thursdays missile strikes should not occur again in the future.
However and according to The Post, Tillerson made little ground in his attempts to convince Russia to join the U.S. in an effort to depose Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The paper called this the “primary” purpose of Tillerson’s meeting, which was announced weeks ago:
In what was effectively an ultimatum, Tillerson on Tuesday said that Moscow must calculate the costs of remaining an ally of Assad, the Iranians and Lebanon’s Shiite militia Hezbollah. Russia’s Foreign Ministry dismissed Tillerson’s remarks Wednesday.
“I believe everyone realized a long time ago that there is no use in giving us ultimatums. This is simply counterproductive,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in remarks aired on the Internet news site TVDozhd.
(Via The Washington Post)