Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

US-Russia relations get even icier

- Reuters letters@Hindustant­imes.com

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 US leader fired missiles at Syria to punish Moscow’s ally for its suspected use of poison gas.

Just as Tillerson sat down for talks, a senior Russian official assailed the “primitiven­ess and loutishnes­s” of US rhetoric, part of a volley of statements that appeared timed to maximise the awkwardnes­s during the first visit 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 moments after Tillerson sat down with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an ornate hall.

Putin doubled down on Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, repeating denials that Assad’s government was to blame for the gas attack last week and adding a new theory that the attack may have been faked by Assad’s enemies.

Moments earlier, Lavrov greeted Tillerson with unusually icy remarks, denouncing the missile strike on Syria as illegal and accusing Washington of behaving unpredicta­bly.

“I won’t hide the fact that we have a lot of questions, taking into account the extremely ambiguous and sometimes contradict­ory ideas which have been expressed in Washington across the whole spectrum of bilateral and multilater­al affairs,” Lavrov said.

“And of course, that’s not to mention that apart from the statements, we observed very recently the extremely worrying actions, when an illegal attack against Syria was undertaken.”

Lavrov also noted that many key State Department posts remain vacant since the new administra­tion took office -- a point of sensitivit­y in Washington. 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. We’ll hope that this doesn’t become the substance of American policy,” deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said. We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons. So if you're Russia, ask yourself is this a regime that you want to align yourself with

Forgetting that Hitler gassed millions of Jews during the Holocaust To journalist April Ryan, who shook her head when he didn't answer her question Obama went outside the chain of command - he didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI... he used (British agency) GCHQ

GCHQ said the claim was "nonsense" and should be ignored Photograph­s of the inaugural proceeding­s were intentiona­lly framed in a way... to minimise the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall Fact-checking website Politifact gave it a "Pants on Fire" rating

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