US, Russia: 'Low level of trust'

Posted April 13, 2017

"It can be said that the level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded", Putin said in an interview broadcast Wednesday. Washington blames Russia's ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Moscow says Syrian rebels are responsible.

The Kremlin has been supporting Assad both militarily and politically since the start of the conflict in 2011. Even if Assad refrains from the use of chemical weapons, his Russia-supported forces have an enormous upper hand.

Only weeks ago, it appeared that Trump, who praised Putin throughout the USA election campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russian Federation.

"Frankly, Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person", Trump said, referring to Assad.

Lavrov also complained about the mixed messages coming out of Washington on the Trump administration's policy on Syria, with the United States envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, making clear Assad should have no future in Syria as Tillerson took a softer line.

Russian Federation says rebels were responsible for whatever chemical agent was found, which the Trump administration calls a disinformation campaign. "We believe it is of principal importance to prevent risks of a repeat of such steps in the future".

Mr Trump responded to the gas attack by firing 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base on Friday.

The civil war is separate from the US -led effort against the Islamic State group in the north of the country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow and Washington have agreed on the need for the United Nations to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Even after the attack, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said the administration would look "rather silly not acknowledging the political realities" of Mr. Assad's grip on power.

Asked if the US attack on the airbase had changed any calculations, a State Department spokesperson told Foreign Policy, "I would expect the full range of issues to be discussed and I do not want to get ahead of those discussions". "No one showed us anything, no one said anything, although we repeatedly asked to produce the details on which these unfounded accusations lie".

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Defense Secretary James Mattis said earlier in the day the airstrike was meant to deter the use of chemical weapons, and that while there is "no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible" for an attack last week, America's priority in Syria is the fight against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

"I will be frank, we have a lot of questions regarding very ambiguous and contradictory ideas on the worldwide agenda in Washington", Lavrov said after shaking hands with Tillerson and sitting down at a conference table. Washington warned Moscow, and Russian troops at the base were not hit.

Mr Trump said Mr Tillerson had completed a successful meeting with Mr Putin, where "things went pretty well". Assad for years has been a Russian client, and has since 2015 relied on Russian airpower to pummel rebel forces and turn holdout cities to rubble.

He also rejected American claims of incontrovertible evidence that Assad ordered the chemical attack.

President Trump then explained how he told President Xi about the strike on Syria.

Putin has traditionally met with the US Secretary of State on visits to Moscow in the past.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Tillerson might meet Mr Putin later on Wednesday if the two top diplomats decided it would be useful to brief the Russian President on their talks.

"What I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it, and you would have had a much better - I think Syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been", Trump said during an interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo that aired Wednesday morning.

Trump said, "I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late". Russian Federation has never publicly acknowledged any such attacks by Assad's forces and has tried for the past 18 months to help him expand his authority in Syria.

In the Fox Business interview, Trump promised that "we're not going into Syria", but he also made clear that he's willing to take action when fellow world leaders use "horrible, frightful chemical weapons".