In the wake of the US missile strike against Syria, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladmir Putin on Wednesday, echoing the words of his boss, President Donald Trump, when he said that relations between the world’s two superpowers are at an all-time low.
At a news conference in Moscow, Tillerson said that relations are “at a low point, there is a low level of trust between our two countries.”
The disagreement comes as a result of a chemical attack launched by Syrian President Bashar al Assad against his own civilians, killing more than 80. Russia supports Assad in his civil war against multiple rebel groups. Over 300,000 people have been killed in the six years of fighting. Assad has used chemical weapons multiple times. In response to the most recent incident, President Trump ordered a missile attack against the Syrian airbase that launched the chemical attack.
“Our view is that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end and they have brought that on themselves with their conduct,” Tillerson said at the press conference. Tillerson left open the process of how Assad would be removed. “We leave that to the process going forward,” noting that the departure needs to be “done in an orderly way”.
At the press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued a warning against additional missile strikes, but left room for future negotiations concerning Assad.
“[We are] not staking everything on a personality,” Lavrov said. “We are simply insisting that everybody sits around the table and talks about it.”
“This insistence on removing or ousting a totalitarian leader, we’ve already been through it, we know very well what happens when you do that,” Lavrov added. “I don’t know of any place of a dictator being removed smoothly without violence.”
Lavrov insisted there was no Russian complicity or knowledge of the Syrian chemical attack, and suggested there was no proof that nerve gas had actually been used.
Following Tillerson’s meeting in Moscow, President Trump held a press conference at the White House.
“We’re not getting along with Russia at all,” Trump said. “We may be at an all time low”.