Speaking to reporters in West Palm Beach, Florida after President Donald Trump‘s statement concerning U.S. missile strikes against Syria, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday night had harsh words for Russia, which he blamed for failing to rein in its Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad.
“Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent,” Tillerson said in an off-camera briefing with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, referring to Moscow’s apparent inability to prevent the Syrian government from using chemical weapons earlier this week despite a 2013 agreement to remove them from the country.
Tillerson pointedly said the United States did not discuss the military strike with Russian President Vladimir Putin or the Russian political leadership in Moscow either before or after it occurred. But the U.S. military said it communicated with the Russian military to minimize any chance of Russian casualties — in particular Russians operating out of the targeted airfield.
The U.S. military also avoided striking a suspected sarin gas storage facility at the targeted airport because it feared hitting the facility would have caused the deadly gas to be dispersed.
Tillerson is set to travel to Moscow next week for meetings with Russian officials, a trip which is sure to take on added urgency in light of the U.S. military action.