MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russian president Vladimir Putin has refused to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as tensions over last week’s U.S. missile attack on a Syrian air base reach a fever pitch.
The snub is further evidence of growing hostilities between the United States in Russia as Putin has granted several audiences to Tillerson in the past, once even going so far as personally awarding Tillerson a top Russian state award — the Order of Friendship — in 2013.
“We have not announced any such meetings and right now there is no meeting with Tillerson in the president’s diary,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters.
Putin has condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s ordered missile strike on a Syrian military base last week in retaliation for what intelligence officials say was a poisonous gas attack in which dozens of civilians, including 27 children, were killed.
In a statement issued shortly after American bombers struck the Syrian base, Putin said there is no proof that the Syria was responsible for the chemical attack, and called the U.S. missile strike an act of aggression and violation of international law.
Russia, a staunch ally of Syria, has said it will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that Syria has the military power necessary to protect itself from further U.S. attacks.
In light of Putin’s refusal to meet with Tillerson, the Secretary of State will instead meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
According to sources, Tillerson is expected to present an “it’s either them or us” scenario to the Russian dipolmat.
“Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians and Hezbollah,” Tillerson said Tuesday. “Is that a long-term alliance that serves the Russians’ interest? Or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States, with other Western countries, and Middle East countries who are seeking to resolve the Syrian crisis?”
Russia has warned the United States that any further attacks on Syria will result in serious” consequences. Despite the warning, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Friday the Trump administration was “ready and willing” to take further steps if needed.