By Lukas Villarin
Day 81 of President Trump’s administration finds the American and Russian governments butting heads over Syria. According to The Washington Post, Trump officials made a demand that Russia cease its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or “face a further deterioration in its relations with the United States.”
The night before his diplomatic trip to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a hard stance on the issue. He accused Russia of both allowing Syria to retain their chemical weapons as well as influencing election results not only in the United States, but also in Europe, as well as in interviews aired Sunday, April 9th.
As of Monday, April 10th, the Kremlin still maintained that there were no plans in President Putin’s schedule to meet with the U.S. Secretary of State personally.
According to The New York Times, President Trump’s earlier calls for better U.S.-Russia relations have become “increasingly lonely,” as the relationship between the two countries is “reverting to the norm: one of friction, distrust and mutual efforts to undermine each other’s reach.” The norm being the antagonistic relationship established back in the Cold War.
On Monday, Tillerson was in Italy, taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony in Sant’Anna dedicated to 560 villagers killed by Nazis in 1944. “We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world…This place will serve as an inspiration to us all,” Tillerson said, remembering those lost during World War II and seemingly drawing a connection to current events in Syria.
In other news, Judge Neil Gorsuch was appointed Supreme Court Justice on the morning of April 10th in the wake of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, 2016. His appointment rebalances the court to four conservatives and liberals each, plus a swing vote in Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Tillerson’s very relevant words recalling the Nazi regime come at an unstable time as Syria’s chemical weapons and the U.S.’s airstrike response continue to strain international relationships. It’s encouraging to note, however, that the Trump administration, although previously pushing for friendlier relations with Russia, is taking such a strong stance on Russia’s support of Syria militarily and diplomatically. Hopefully, President Trump, who has up to this point remained uncharacteristically quiet on the matter, affirms a similar stance against Russia’s involvement with Syria in the upcoming days.