During a press conference on Wednesday, President Trump said that U.S.-Russia relations “may be at an all-time low,” as he praised Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for working to address those tensions in Moscow.
“Right now, we’re not getting along with Russia at all, we may be at an all-time low,” Trump said, during a White House press conference with Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general.
Rex Tillerson made similar remarks during his press conference with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Tillerson met with Lavrov, as well as Vladimir Putin, for nearly two hours at the Kremlin on Wednesday.
Tensions are growing between the U.S. and Russia after last week’s U.S. missile strikes against Syria’s Assad regime, Russia’s ally, in response to a chemical weapons attack that the Trump administration believes was carried out by Assad. Trump stood by the decision on Wednesday, calling Bashar Assad a “butcher” and saying: “I have absolutely no doubt we did the right thing.”
The President was asked whether it’s possible Syria could have launched the attack without Russia’s knowledge. He gave a mixed answer, saying it’s “possible” but “probably unlikely.”
“I would like to think that they didn’t know, but certainly they could have, they were there,” he said.
Trump added that it would be “fantastic” if Russia and the United States could get along, but did not say whether or not that was possible.
During the press conference, President Trump went back on his pre-inauguration criticism that NATO is “obsolete,” citing more involvement in fighting terrorism. “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete,” he said.
But the Trump administration says it is spending a disproportionate share on defense compared with its 27 partners, and that it expects action by the time Trump meets with other alliance leaders on May 25.
Trump repeated his campaign stance Wednesday that NATO members must “meet their financial obligations” and “many have not been doing that.”
Trump also included his efforts to address the threat from North Korea and asserted, “Right now the world is a mess. … By the time I’m finished, it’s going to be a lot better place to live in, because right now it’s nasty.”
The President went on to address the relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He said they “very good chemistry” during their meeting last week and they both hope that the country can help with the threat coming out of North Korea. He said he told Xi that helping with Pyongyang could light the way for a good trade deal, but the U.S. would “go it alone” if necessary.
“I think he wants to help. We’ll see whether or not he does,” Trump said. He praised China for abstaining from a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Russia vetoed the resolution which called for a speedy investigation into the attack.