On the day his secretary of state visited Russia for highly anticipated meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, President Donald Trump called it “unlikely” Russia could have been unaware of Syria’s plans for a chemical attack last week that killed at least 87 civilians, including small children.
Trump’s comment came during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after he was asked for his “instinct” about whether it was possible Syria’s government could have initiated the attack without Russia’s knowledge.
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“I think it’s certainly possible. I think it’s probably unlikely, and I know they are doing investigations into that right now,” said Trump. “I would like to think that they didn’t know, but certainly they could have. They were there. So we’ll find out. General Mattis is looking into it with the entire Pentagon group that does that kind of work.”
The president was additionally asked about US-Russia ties amid Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow.
“Right now we’re not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia,” said Trump. “This has built for a long period of time, but we’ll see what happens. Putin is the leader of Russia. Russia is a strong country. We’re a very, very strong country. We’re going to see how that all works out.”
Tillerson said much of the same following a joint press conference with Lavrov, attributing the two countries’ issues to a lack of trust, yet wouldn’t go as far as Trump when it came to speculating about Russian awareness of the chemical attack.
“With respect to Russia’s complicity or knowledge of the chemical weapons attack, we have no firm information to indicate that there was any involvement by Russian forces into this attack,” said Tillerson.