Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for two hours in Moscow on Wednesday. He originally was only set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the presence of Vladimir Putin was unscheduled. In a combined press conference after the meeting, Lavrov reported that the meeting was “productive,” as did Secretary of State Tillerson, though serious differences remain.
“We frankly discussed that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point. There is a low level of trust between our countries…The relationship of the world’s two most powerful nuclear powers is low. This situation cannot be allowed.” Rex Tillerson
Their meeting came at the same time as Russia sent 3 nuclear-capable SU-95 “Bear” bombers, along with an IL-20 spy plane, to fly over Japan. US officials say it was a message, although Russia has done this numerous times over both Japan as well as other Western nations, and did it often during the Obama administration.
Tillerson stated that there were several points of agreement, as well as a wide variance of things that the US and Russia disagreed on. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov stated they were willing to reinstate the agreement regarding airstrikes over Syria with some assurances from the United States.
Both sides agreed that a stable Syria was a goal, as well as wiping ISIS off the map. The differences come, as usual, with the rebels. Jabhat al-Nusra is the arm of Al-Qaeda in Syria, and we have been allowing them to fight on the coalition side. This has been a bone of contention with Russia all along.
Russia still wants an independent investigation over whether or not Assad’s forces conducted the Sarin attack in Idlib province. They have advanced two thoughts – one, that the distribution of the chemical came from an airstrike that accidentally hit the stores of chemical weapons, and two that Assad was framed. Neither scenario seems likely.
BREAKING: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Syria has used chlorine bombs and other chemical weapons on more than 50 occasions.
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 12, 2017
Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated that he reviewed the intelligence and was absolutely certain that Assad’s forces did it.
Diplomacy – disagreeing with an agreeable tone
“We both believe in a unified and stable Syria and we want to deny a safe haven for terrorists. We agreed North Korea has to be denuclearized. But there’s a broad range of issues where we have differences.” Rex Tillerson
Both sides agreed that all channels of communication must remain open, from military to diplomatic.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks about the shared/different views of the US and Russia towards Syria pic.twitter.com/I397hyw4gQ
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 12, 2017
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) April 12, 2017
“We both believe in a unified and stable Syria,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says after meeting with Putin.
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) April 12, 2017