Trump leans hard on Putin over support to al-Assad

The Trump administration is piling up pressure on Putin's Russia. The intention is to force Russia to stop Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator. The Syrian military launched a gas attack during the first week of April. It resulted in about 80 civilians getting killed. Washington's new tough talk suggests that President Trump is not afraid to adopt a confrontational approach towards the Russian Government.

No mutual admiration now

The deterioration of relations between the two countries is surprising after President Trump during his presidential election days expressing clear admiration for the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow reverted in kind, interfering in the presidential election process in favor of Trump. Russian state backed hackers reportedly hacked servers used by the Democratic Party. This led to repeated questions concerning contacts between Trump's circle members and Russian administration.

Assad has long enjoyed the support of the Kremlin. This has enabled the Syrian dictator to continue to hold on to power even after a number of warring groups, including ISIS to overthrow him. The 2015 Russian intervention was particularly done to keep his regime hold the controls in Damascus.

This political shift could put Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, on a sticky wicket with the Russian Government when he will visit Moscow on April 12. The meeting is scheduled to be the first important meeting between the Putin and Trump administrations. This meeting will test the ability of the United States to put pressure on Moscow to let go of its Syrian ally.

Use of weapons

Russia was accused by US ambassador to United Nations, Nikki Haley, of trying to help Assad. She said that Tillerson will ask a number of hard questions to Moscow as to why they did not stop the attack. She continued further to add that either Kremlin knew of the existence of chemical weapons and  figured out there will be a use of chemical weapons or they were completely fooled by Assad. When asked whether the Trump administration will adopt tougher sanctions against Russia, the US ambassador did not discount such a possibility.

According to Tillerson, he said that he will press Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, on why Russia has not satisfied the terms of a 2013 agreement which states that chemical weapons in Syria should be collected and destroyed. In an interview to the media, the failure to stop the devastating chemical attack rests on Russia. The latter did not achieve its aims which it has promised to the global community.

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