MOSCOW — Relations between the U.S. and Russia are at a “low point” and need to be improved, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday during a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for two hours at the Kremlin, describing it as “productive.”
“I expressed the view that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point and there is a low level of trust between our countries,” Tillerson said. “The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship,” Tillerson said.
The meeting took place along with Lavrov and came after Lavrov issued Tillerson a warning against any further U.S. strikes on the Syrian regime. Russia is Syria’s most powerful ally.
The two top diplomats had sat down together earlier in the day to work through the fallout of last week’s chemical attack in northwestern Syria, which plunged the old Cold War enemies to a new low.
Moscow and Washington have traded barbs over last week’s chemical attack, which killed 89 people, and prompted the US to carry out its first strike against the Syrian regime in the six-year conflict, taking out aircraft and infrastructure at a Syrian military air base.
Putin said in an interview with state-run MIR television earlier Wednesday that relations with the U.S. had deteriorated.
“The working level of confidence in Russian-American relations, especially at the military level, under the administration of Donald Trump, has not improved, but rather worsened,” he said.
Lavrov gave Tillerson an icy welcome, diving straight into Moscow’s grievances with Washington in what would usually be warm welcoming remarks.
Russia “saw some very troubling actions regarding the attack on Syria,” he said, according to an official Russian interpreter.
“We believe it is fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again,” he said.
The White House on Tuesday accused Russia and Syria of carrying out a confusion campaign over who was responsible for the chemical attack.
Putin has made comparisons between the U.S. response and its 2003 intervention in Iraq, calling it a “tedious” story.