The Russian Federation used its veto power Wednesday to block a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and blaming him for an alleged April 4 chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians.
The Russian veto came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow. At a press conference after the two-hour meeting, Tillerson said that the American and Russian diplomats had discussed Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, as well as Syria, Ukraine, and North Korea, and failed to agree on much of anything, especially the facts regarding the alleged April 4 attack by Assad.
“There is a low level of trust between our two countries. The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship,” Tillerson said.
Deputy Russian envoy to the United Nations Vladimir Safronkov questioned the logic of condemning Assad before international investigators had even begun to examine what actually happened April 4.
“I’m amazed that this was the conclusion. No one has yet visited the site of the crime. How do you know that?” he said.
While meeting with the Italian president in Moscow April 11, Putin explicitly stated that he believes it is possible that the April 4 chemical weapons attack was a false flag operation designed as pretext for a new American war in the Middle East.
“President Mattarella and I discussed it, and I told him that this reminds me strongly of the events in 2003, when the US representatives demonstrated at the UN Security Council session the presumed chemical weapons found in Iraq. The military campaign was subsequently launched in Iraq and it ended with the devastation of the country, the growth of the terrorist threat and the appearance of Islamic State on the world stage,” he added.
Whether the U.S. intends to overthrow Assad in the same way that it overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003 is unclear. American officials have made conflicting comments on future U.S. policy towards Syria, ranging from support for regime change to claims that the missile strike was a one-and-done action. At present, President Donald Trump’s April 7 use of 59 Tomahawk missiles to strike the air base from which the chemical attack allegedly was launched has been the only military force used by the U.S. against Assad’s government. However, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin said April 7 that the administration was preparing new sanctions against Assad in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons.