Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Moscow on Tuesday, and the visit is highly unlikely to be the love-in that some predicted in the Trump administration's earlier days. Tillerson talked tough on Russia in interviews Sunday, calling for the country to end its support of Syria's Bashar al-Assad or face the consequences, the New York Times reports. He called Moscow "incompetent" for failing to hold up its end of a deal to rid Syria of chemical weapons, and accused Russia of interfering in European—but not American—elections. He said, however, that there was no change to US "military posture" in Syria, and the fight against ISIS will still come first. In other developments:
- Tillerson's remarks to the media made it clear that the Russian relationship with Syria will be a main focus of talks, the Washington Post reports. "I hope Russia is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility," he said on ABC's This Week.
- Before he travels to Russia, Tillerson will be in Italy Monday for a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers, who are hoping he will provide some clarity on the new US approach to Syria. Reuters describes America's US allies as "confused and frustrated" by mixed messages, with Nikki Haley describing regime change as a priority and Tillerson saying the fight against ISIS comes first.
- The Italy talks will likely be dominated by efforts by the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK to find ways to persuade Vladimir Putin to drop Assad, but that task may be "as enormous as ever," notes the BBC.
- Russia doesn't seem ready to make deals: ABC reports that the "joint command of Syrian allies," which includes Iran as well as Russia, issued a statement Sunday saying the US had "crossed red lines" with its strike on a Syrian airbase, and warning that any similar attacks will be met a response. "America knows very well our ability and capabilities to respond well to them," and "we will respond without taking into consideration any reaction and consequences," the statement said.
- Fox notes that the Syria strike has won President Trump plenty of praise from liberal pundits, who largely aren't calling him out for "flip-flopping," though there have been notes of dissent from both liberal and conservative outlets, which may grow depending on what happens in the weeks and months ahead.
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