Trump Administration And Russia Engage In First International Clash Over Syria Resolution

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Trump administration and Russia had their first clash Tuesday after the Kremlin vetoed a United Nations (U.N.) resolution condemning the Syrian government for its use of chemical weapons.

Russia’s decision to block the measure was expected beforehand, but that did not stop U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart from trading barbs.

“It is a sad day on the security council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people,” said Haley after the vote. “The world is definitely a more dangerous place.”

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said such criticism was “outrageous” and “politically biased.”

“Today’s clash or confrontation is not a result of our negative vote. It is a result of the fact that you decided on provocation while you knew well ahead of time our position,” said Safronkov.

Russia’s vote marks the seventh time the Kremlin has used its Security Council veto power to defend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from international condemnation resulting from the massacre of his own people. China, which holds veto power on the Security Council, also voted against the measure.

The resolution was originally put forth by the United Kingdom and France several months ago, with the U.S. adding its endorsement last week. It would have sanctioned several Syrian military officials and organizations for the use of chlorine barrel-bombs on Syrian rebel positions in 2014 and 2015. U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson responded to the result of the vote with disappointment, noting “the U.K will continue to seek justice for the victims of these heinous chemical weapons attacks.”

Assad signed an international chemical weapons treaty and promised to dismantle his chemical weapons after a sarin gas attack in August, 2013. A U.N, panel subsequently found that Assad violated the deal at least three times.

Haley and Safronkov’s discord stands in stark contrast to Trump’s stated desire for smooth relations with Russia. Despite the president’s apparent desire for a rapprochement, many of his top advisors, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis and national security advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, are known to hold skeptical views of Russia’s international intentions.

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