WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is appearing to rule out deeper American military intervention in Syria beyond the airstrikes he ordered based on U.S. evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad attacked civilians with chemical weapons.
"Are we going to get involved with Syria? No," Trump told Fox Business News in an interview that aired Wednesday.
Trump also warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that in backing Assad, Putin was supporting someone who is "truly an evil person."
"I think it's very bad for Russia. I think it's very bad for mankind. It's very bad for this world," Trump said.
Later Wednesday, Trump planned to hold talks at the White House with Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary-general, while Trump's secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.
Since Trump took office in January, he has been confronted by European allies who have fear his administration will go easy on Russia. During his 2016 campaign, Trump said he would decide whether to honor the commitment to protect the Baltic republics against Russian aggression, based on whether those countries "have fulfilled their obligations to us."
He has since made his support of NATO allies clear, but has reiterated his stance that European members need to meet their end of the bargain if they are to continue benefiting from the military alliance.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance of European and North American democracies created after World War II to strengthen international cooperation as a counter the rise of the Soviet Union.
Putin told state-run Mir television that relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated in the early months of Trump's presidency. "It can be said that the level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded," Putin said in an interview broadcast Wednesday.
Putin's spokesman said Putin may meet with Tillerson "if it is decided" that Putin needs to be briefed on the Tillerson-Lavrov talks.