President Trump said Wednesday it's "unlikely" that Russia had prior knowledge of Syria’s plan to launch a chemical attack on its own citizens, but he did not rule out the possibility.
“I’d like to think that they didn’t,” Trump said during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “But certainly they could’ve.”
Trump defended his decision to launch a barrage of cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in response to the attack, which the U.S. has said was ordered by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“I have absolutely no doubt we did the right thing,” said Trump, who called Assad a “butcher.”
U.S. officials have previously stopped short of saying the Russians had prior knowledge of the gas attack but have strongly implied that they did.
The strike has set off a fierce disagreement between the U.S. and Russia, Syria's main ally in the region in its ongoing civil war.
Russia has disputed the U.S. assessment that Assad was responsible for the strike, saying it could have been carried out by rebel forces or terrorist groups.
“Right now, we’re not getting along with Russia at all,” Trump said. “We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia. It’s been building for a long time. But we’ll see what happens.”
The comments came after a tense meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The two sides agreed to move forward on an international investigation of the gas attack. But their disagreements on who was responsible for the strike, and Assad's future, were on full display.