Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Tuesday that he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the relationship between the U.S. and Moscow was bad and could get worse, POLITICO reports.
“I told President Putin when I saw him in the Kremlin in March and I’ve told Foreign Minister Lavrov repeatedly, ‘The situation’s bad, but believe me, it can get worse’ and it just did,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson spoke at the State Department briefing Tuesday, where he talked about his first six months as secretary of state and answered a few questions. He also said he and Trump are not “very happy” with the Congress’ recent vote to sanction Russia, but “all indications are he will sign that bill, and then we’ll just work with it”.
The bill which was approved overwhelmingly in both chambers, by a margin of 98-2 with strong support from Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, a feat that seemed impossible with the embattled health care legistlation bill. It allows Congress to block any attempt to ease or end penalties against Russia and imposes new sanctions in response to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
Tillerson suggested that Americans support the Trump administration’s moves to establish a warmer relationship with Russia.
He said, “I think the American people want the two most powerful nuclear nations in the world to have a better relationship, I don’t think the American people want us to have a bad relationship with a huge nuclear power, but I think they are frustrated, and I think a lot of this reflects the frustration that we’ve not seen the kind of improvement in the relationship with Russia that all of us would like to see”.
The secretary of state said the Trump administration has been clear in their intentions to work with Russia but the Kremlin has to take steps to address some of the core issues.
This follows Putin’s reaction to the increased sanctions, Sunday to seize two Russian compounds in the U.S. and the expulsion of 755 U.S. diplomats. Tillerson said he felt his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov was as committed as he is to finding ways the U.S.-Russia relationship would be “close to one another.”