US-Russian Diplomatic Relations Deteriorate Over Syria

Russian President, Vladimir Putin is reported to have said that the US-Russian relationship has witnessed an erosion of, what he terms, “trust” under the Trump administration. Earlier this week, Putin is said to have met with the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson in a rather unwelcoming visit, despite it being the first since the Trump administration took office. The US-Russian relationship recently suffered a significant blow as a result of Russian interference in Ukraine and the alleged interference in the US elections. However, these already tense relations have worsened in the past week due to the use of poison gas last Tuesday in Syria in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province. The US has termed Russian denial of responsibility for the attack, as “a cover-up.” Further, the decision of US President Donald Trump to launch cruise missiles on a Syrian airbase last week, a move condemned by the Kremlin, has caused more tension between the two states.

On Tuesday, Putin told reporters in Moscow that accusations levelled against Syria’s government were a “provocation” and that the gas attack should be investigated by the United Nations. A US intelligence report, dated the 4th of April, stated that neither ISIS nor other rebel groups have access to sarin, which was used in last week’s Syrian chemical attack. There is significant agitation in the international community to hold those responsible for such actions accountable under international law. The recent chemical attack is said to have killed approximately 70 people including children. The last chemical attack in Syria nearly six years ago took the world by surprise, however, actions were swiftly taken to contain the situation. Nevertheless, the question remains: how long will civilian populations in Syria be subject to such internationally wrongful acts?

The Syrian conflict has been marred with heavyweight intervention from states, such as Turkey, Iran, US, and Russia further complicating the existing state of the conflict. The increased involvement of these factions has led to sophistication in the use of weapons as the stakes get higher for each. With that said, the ball remains in the United Nations’ court to investigate the attack and provide concrete steps of action going forward.