PUTIN CAVES: RUSSIAN LEADER MEETS WITH TILLERSON IN ‘TENSE’ EXCHANGE DESPITE EARLIER REFUSAL

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today in an apparent about face.

Putin, who had earlier in the week refused to meet with Tillerson amid tensions over the American strike on Syria, spoke with Tillerson in Moscow for nearly two hours, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson has confirmed.

The meeting comes after harsh words by president Trump toward Russia, who he claims assisted Syria in a deadly chemical strike on Syrian civilians that killed dozens of people.

“If Russia didn’t go in and back this animal (Syrian president Bashar al-Assad), you wouldn’t have a problem right now,” said Trump.

Sources with close knowledge of the meeting said that Tillerson pushed Putin to cooperate with the United States in helping to bring Syria under control. Despite a long standing friendship between Tillerson and Putin, the meeting was described as “tense”.

During the 24 hour period leading up to Tillerson’s landing in Moscow, the White House accused the Russian government of hiding evidence that proved al-Assad was responsible the gassing of his own people, launched from a base where Russian troops are operating.

In a statement, an angry Putin shot back that the charge was fabricated and accused President Trump, who American media claimed had collaborated with Putin to manipulate the outcome of the 2016 election, of fabricating the evidence to create a fake confrontation.

“This reminds me very much of the events of 2003, when U.S. representatives in the Security Council showed alleged chemical weapons discovered in Iraq,” said Putin, referring to intelligence that Mr. Trump has also cited in recent months. “The exact same thing is happening now,” he argued.

Sean Spicer, when asked about to expect in regard to the meeting between Tillerson and Putin on Wednesday, said Tillerson was expected to focus on the mutual interests of the United States and Russia but that Tillerson would also put Putin on notice that the U.S. will not tolerate further acts of aggression by Russia or their Syrian ally.

“I think there is a shared interest in defeating ISIS in the region that we have a national security concern that should align with their national security concern,” he said. “Russia right now is an island. It’s Russia, North Korea and Iran … Russia is among that group the only non-failed state.”

Russia is only “isolating” itself by standing by Assad, he added.

The Kremlin had said earlier in the week that Putin would not meet with Mr. Tillerson upon his arrival, but on Wednesday the Russian leader’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Putin would “consider” meeting with Tillerson at some point “depending on how Tillerson’s other talks” went.

As a matter of protocol, Russian leaders have greeted virtually all new secretaries of state since the end of World War II, and the initial refusal was considered to be a major snub to U.S. Russian relations and was cited by many political experts as a an effort by Mr. Putin to show Tillerson that just who was in control.

Before heading back behind closed doors, Putin and Tillerson shared a stiff handshake and made no eye contact.

Russia has said that despite U.S. concerns, they will continue to back their Syrian ally and will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that al-Assad has the military backing necessary to thwart off another U.S. attack.

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MAD DOG TO SYRIA: DON’T RATTLE OUR CHAIN; MATTIS WARNS SYRIA ON ‘CONSEQUENCES’ OF FUTURE ACTS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis warned the Syrian government on Tuesday that it will pay a “very, very stiff price” for future chemical attacks.

Speaking during a joint press conference with Army Gen. Joseph Votel at the Pentagon, Mattis said there is “no doubt” that the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was behind last week’s gas attack that killed dozens of Syrian civilians.

“Last Tuesday, on the 4th of April, the Syrian regime attacked its own people using chemical weapons,” Mattis said. “I have personally reviewed the intelligence and there is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself.

“In response to the attack, our government began a deliberate process led by the National Security Council to recommend diplomatic and military options to the president,” Mattis said. “We met over several days and I spoke with some of our allies. The National Security Council considered the near century-old international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons.”

Referencing the air attack upon a Syrian airbase last week at the order of president Trump, Mattis said the United States is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that such atrocities do not occur again.

“The Syrian regime’s repeated violation of that international law and inexplicably ruthless murders the regime had committed, we determined that a measured military response could best deter the regime from doing this again,” he said.

“This military action demonstrates that the United States will not passively stand by while Assad blithely ignores international law and employs chemical weapons he had declared destroyed,” said Mattis. “The Syrian regime should think long and hard before it again acts so recklessly in violation of international law against the use of chemical weapons.”

When asked about Russian president Vladimir Putin’s angry response over the airstrike, said the United States was deliberate in their maneuver and “took appropriate actions to ensure no Russians were injured in the attack.” When pressed by a reporter who asked more specifically what, if any, involvement Russia may have had in helping it’s ally in planning the chemical assault, Mattis was evasive.

“We have gone back through and looked at all the evidence we can and it’s very clear who planned this attack, who authorized this attack and who conducted this attack itself.” he said. “The Assad regime planned it, orchestrated it and executed it. And beyond that, we can’t say right now. We know what I just told you. We don’t know anything beyond that.”

Mattis said that, despite Russia’s insistence that there is no proof that Assad ordered the chemical strike upon his own people, the strike ordered by Trump was necessary to “stop the cycle of violence into an area”.

“Even in World War II chemical weapons were not used on battlefields. Even in the Korean War, they were not used on battlefields,” he said.

How much advanced knowledge Russia had of the chemical attack in Syria remains a subject of debate. On Monday, the Associated Press quoted a senior U.S. official who asserted that Russia knew of the chemical attack before it occurred (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/19772be1238e49fbb62c509a5b659b3d/official-us-military-takes-extra-precautions-syria). However, during a daily press briefing from the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer said there is no evidence to back up the official’s claim.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Army Gen. Joseph Votel, brief the media at the Pentagon

TILLERSON SNUBBED: ANGRY VLADIMIR PUTIN REFUSES TO MEET WITH SECRETARY OF STATE FOLLOWING TRUMP ORDERED STRIKE ON SYRIA

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.

ON THE BRINK: TENSIONS WITH RUSSIA MOUNT AS U.S. DISCOVERS PUTIN HAD ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE OF CHEMICAL ATTACK

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tensions between the United States and Russia reached a peak on Monday after U.S. officials discovered that Russia may have had advance knowledge of a deadly gas attack upon Syrian civilians which killed more than 80 people, 27 of which were children.

According to a senior U.S. official who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/19772be1238e49fbb62c509a5b659b3d/official-us-military-takes-extra-precautions-syria), Russia not only knew of Syria’s chemical weapons attack in advance, but bombed a Syrian hospital as the injured were obtaining treatment in an effort to cover up their ally’s use of chemical weapons.

The official said a drone operated by Russians was captured on surveillance footage flying over the hospital as doctors fought to save the victims’ lives. Hours after the drone left, he said, a Russian jet began dropping bombs on the facility.

The official says it remains unclear as to whether a Russian pilot or Syrian pilot was flying the bomber, but that the bombing came from a Russian jet proves that the Russian government was complicit in the attack. Until Monday U.S. officials said it remained unclear what, if any, knowledge Russia had of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s apparent plan to gas his own people.

The allegation strikes another devastating blow to the already crumbling relations between the United States and Russia, who publicly slammed president Donald Trump’s decision to launch a military strike against Syria in response to the gassing.

Last week, after Trump ordered military jets to bomb a Syrian airbase, Russian president Vladimir Putin angrily withdrew from a joint agreement with the U.S. that was designed to ensure military peace.

So far, there has been no Syrian retaliation for the airstrike, which destroyed more than 20 Syria air force planes, but Russia said in a statement over the weekend that it will do whatever is takes to ensure that their ally has the military capacity necessary to protect itself from future American strikes.

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WORLD WAR THREE FEARS DEEPEN AS TRUMP SENDS WARSHIPS TO KOREAN PENINSULA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Concerns of a global war have intensified in recent days after president Donald Trump ordered U.S. warships dispatched to waters around the Korean peninsula over the weekend.

The move follows Trump’s order to strike a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical attack launched upon Syrian civilians, reportedly by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and growing threats of nuclear attack upon the United States by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

According to a statement from the U.S. Navy, the Carl Vinson strike group, comprising an aircraft carrier, cruisers, and destroyers armed with guided missiles, were dispatched to the region to maintain “readiness”.

“The number-one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible, and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” according to U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham.

President Trump ordered the strike against Syria during his Mar-a-Lago summit with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. During the same meeting Trump declared that the U.S. would “solve” the North Korea issue on its own if China did not take designated action to do so. North Korea is considered on China’s staunchest allies.

Seemingly struck by Trump’s firm stance and swift action on the Syrian issue, Jinping agreed that something must be done in regard to North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation”(http://www.cbsnews.com/news/full-transcript-rex-tillerson-on-face-the-nation-april-9/). China, said Tillerson, has “no disagreement as to how dangerous the situation has become.”

Russia, however, denies the Syrian leader’s involvement in the attack upon his own people and condemned the strike to the Syrian airbase by Trump as a blow to U.S. /Russia relations.

In response, Russia said it would suspend its channel for communicating military action in Syria with Washington, which was an agreement developed between the two superpowers to ensure peace.

“Russia suspends the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring the Safety of Aviation Operations during Operations in Syria with the US,” a spokesperson for Russian leader Vladimir Putin said as he called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the matter.

The spokesperson said the U.S had staged a show of force, “not bothering to sort out anything”, and “moved military against a country which is fighting international terrorism”.

Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, says it will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Syria has the military force it needs to defend itself from future U.S. attacks.

Tillerson was expected to visit Moscow this week for a pre-arranged meeting with Russian military leaders where was is expected to push for a make or break deal on the Syrian matter. That meeting has now been cancelled as officials ponder their next steps.

“I think the Russians have played now for some time the role of providing cover for Bashar al-Assad’s behavior,” Tillerson told CBS. “The alternative explanation that the Russians put forth (that the Syrians were not the parties behind the gas attack upon the Syrian people) is simply not plausible.”

The U.S., weakened by a reduced nuclear program under former president Barack Obama, may be vulnerable to a nuclear attack if struck by North Korea first, according to a report by The Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-na-qa-missile-strike-20170405-htmlstory.html).

According to the report, The Pentagon has spent more than $40 billion on the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system to thwart a nuclear strike by North Korea or Iran, but there are grave doubts about whether it’s up to the task.

When asked if a preemptive nuclear strike against North Korea was being considered, a military spokesperson replied: “Everything is on the table at this point”.

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PUTIN UNHINGED: FURIOUS RUSSIAN LEADER ORDERS MILITARY RESPONSE TO TRUMP’S ‘ACT OF AGGRESSION’

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an angry response on Friday to president Donald Trump’s military strike against Syria.

Calling Trump’s order to strike an airbase facility in Syrian on Thursday evening an “act of aggression”, Putin pulled the plug on a longstanding agreement of military cooperation with the United States, calling the military strike on Syria “a disgraceful act”.

Following the announcement of Russia’s withdraw from the agreement, a Russian warship entered the eastern Mediterranean, navigating itself directly toward the area where two U.S. Navy destroyers launched the missile strikes. Upon obtaining intelligence of the ship’s entry, one of the American destroyers that launched the missiles into Syria was ordered back to an undisclosed location to rearm.

According to a military spokesperson, the warship is engaged in a high rate of speed and it’s intentions are unknown.

In further response to the attack, Putin said his military would work to bolster Syria’s air defense systems in an effort to provide military aide to it’s ally.

“In order to protect the most sensitive objects of the Syrian infrastructure, a system of measures to bolster and increase the effectiveness of the Syrian armed forces’ air defense systems will be implemented,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement on Friday.

Trump’s strike against Syria came in response to a chemical weapons attack against civilians on Tuesday that killed at least 70 people and sickened hundreds more. Intelligence reports suggest that the Syrian government was, itself, behind the attack, an allegation that it’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, denies.

After being briefed on the gas attack, President Trump said he was “horrified” and “sickened” at the images of dead children who were casualties of the attack.

“No child of god should ever suffer such horror,” President Trump said on Thursday after ordering the strike. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

In a separate statement, a spokesperson from the Kremlin called the attacks against Syria unwarranted and cited a UN report that declared Syria free of chemical weapons.

“Vladimir Putin believes that complete disregard for factual information about the use by terrorists of chemical weapons drastically aggravates the situation,” said the spokesperson. “This move by Washington has dealt a serious blow to Russian-US relations, which are already in a poor state.”

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