Reuters MOSCOW (Reuters) — 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.
Any hope in Russia that the Trump administration would herald less confrontational relations has been dashed in the past week after the new U.S. leader fired missiles at Syria to punish Moscow’s ally for its suspected use of poison gas.
As Tillerson sat down for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, a senior Russian official assailed the “primitiveness and loutishness” of U.S. 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 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 U.S. 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.
Asked whether Assad could be subject to war crimes, Tillerson said people were working to make such a case, though he cautioned that would require clearing a high legal hurdle.
Lavrov had greeted Tillerson with unusually icy remarks, denouncing the missile strike on Syria as illegal and accusing Washington of behaving unpredictably.
One of Lavrov’s deputies was even more undiplomatic.
“In general, primitiveness and loutishness are very characteristic of the current rhetoric coming out of Washington,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency.Speech