Levels of trust between Russia and the United States have gotten worse in the few months since President Donald Trump took office, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.
"One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved, but rather has deteriorated,” Putin said, according to Reuters, which cited a Kremlin transcript.
Putin’s comments come as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is set to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. It also comes as relations between the two countries are strained following a U.S. missile strike against Russian ally Syria in response to a chemical attack purportedly committed by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his own people.
Putin on Wednesday continued to downplay any direct involvement by Assad into the chemical attack. He said the chemical attack was either due to the Syrian government bombing a rebel chemical weapons stockpile or it’s a ploy to discredit the Syrian government.
Putin’s strained relationship with Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, was well-publicized. In an oft-cited op-ed in the New York Times in 2013, Putin directly addressed Obama during heightened strain over Syria, writing, “working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust” but adding “I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’ It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”
But Trump’s relationship with Putin, at least initially, appeared to be much better. Trump questioned whether Russia interfered with the 2016 election despite statements from the U.S. intelligence community. And he has fought accusations that his campaign coordinated with Russia.
The FBI is currently investigating alleged links between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.