NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CBS News) — Shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian officials in Moscow, President Donald Trump said the relationship between the two nations “may be at an all-time low.”
Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Wednesday.
“I’ll be speaking with Rex Tillerson in a little while, calling in. I think he had a very successful meeting in Russia,” Trump said. “We’ll see, we’ll see the end result.”
Tillerson called the meeting “productive.”
“I expressed the view that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point,” he said. “The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.”
In a joint press conference, Tillison said he and Lavrov had a “lengthy exchange of views regarding the situation in Syria,” and “shared perspectives on possible ways forward.”
Tillerson also said the United States believes the Assad family’s regime is coming to an end.
“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.
Lavrov cautioned against fixating on Assad’s ouster, pointing to past examples like Saddam Hussein, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
“The future of Syria has to be determined by the Syrians themselves,” he said.
Lavrov also said Russia wants a “frank investigation” into the chemical weapon attack by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, insisting Russia has no intention to “shield anyone.” He reaffirmed Russia’s position that the Syrian government was not responsible for the attack.
“We would very much like to get some concrete evidence, not just words,” he said.
The meetings come on the heels of a U.S. missile strike on an air base in Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapon attack on civilians that’s been blamed on the Bashar al-Assad regime. Russia is a key supporter of Assad’s.
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Earlier Wednesday, Putin said U.S.-Russia relations have gotten worse during Donald Trump’s presidency. Speaking on Russian state television, Putin said “the level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded.”
Tuesday, the White House declassified a U.S. intelligence report that accused Putin of a cover-up to “confuse” and “obfuscate” on behalf of Assad. The same day, Russia pushed back against U.S. claims regarding the chemical weapon attack.
“It reminds me of the events in 2003 when U.S. envoys to the Security Council were demonstrating what they said were chemical weapons found in Iraq,” Putin said. “That’s exactly what is happening now. We have already seen all of this.”
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“I have personally reviewed the intelligence, and there is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, President Trump told the Fox Business Channel that Assad was a war criminal and Russia should rethink its support of him.
“Frankly, Putin is backing a person that is truly an evil person,” Trump said. “When you drop gas or bombs or barrel bombs — and in all fairness, you see the same kids, no arms, no legs, no face — this is an animal.”
Wednesday afternoon, Russia also vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned the chemical weapon attack in Syria and demanded a quick investigation.