U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for what promises to be a difficult series of scheduled talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. While tensions between the two nations have been high in recent years, a chemical weapons attack carried out against civilians last Tuesday led to dramatic military action against Bashar al Assad’s Syrian regime ordered by President Trump’s administration on Thursday. Russia, Assad’s most powerful ally, made clear their feelings on the event, calling it illegal under international law and doubling down on their support for the Syrian government in the world’s media.
Now Tillerson, who was once awarded the Russian Order of Friendship from Russian President Vladimir Putin for his work as an oil company executive, is heading into hostile territory with one goal on his mind: turn the tides of Russian support for Assad.
A number of State Department officials have indicated that Tillerson’s strategy throughout his interactions with the Kremlin will be to emphasize Russian responsibility and culpability for Assad’s actions – ensuring they recognize the real (or perceived) view the world’s community is developing of the Russian state and hoping it embarrasses them into waning their support for the Syrian leader.
“I’m hopeful that we can have constructive talks with the Russia government, with Foreign Minister (Sergey) Lavrov, and have Russia be supportive of a process that will lead to a stable Syria,” Tillerson said on ABC’s “This Week” ahead of the visit.