Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had some tough words for Russia on Thursday on the matter of Syrian chemical weapons.
Speaking from President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where Trump is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Tillerson referenced Russia’s 2013 agreement to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal and said Russia has “clearly failed in its responsibility” to eliminate those weapons.
“Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent on its ability to deliver,” he said.
Tillerson stated that Russia’s permission was not sought for the strike, but warnings were given to reduce the risk of Russian casualties.
“Our target in this attack was not Russia. Our target was this airfield and the Syrian regime.”
He also said the White House consulted with American allies in Europe and the Middle East, and their response was “overwhelmingly supportive.”
“I think it does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and government actors cross the line,” Tillerson said of the U.S. military action. “It’s clear that President Trump made that statement to the world tonight.”
NBC News notes that Tillerson is scheduled to fly to Moscow next week “for high-level meetings with Russian officials on a trip originally intended to turn a new page in the U.S. Russian relationship.” With masterful understatement, a senior State Department official said the Syrian situation was certain to “color” Tillerson’s talks.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov provided some of that color on Friday, by stating that Russian President Vladimir Putin “considers the U.S. strikes against Syria an aggression against a sovereign country violating the norms of international law, and under a trumped-up pretext at that.”