More than 60 world leaders gathered in Paris Sunday to mark 100 years since the end of World War I, and although the general theme was unity, President Donald Trump seemed determined to stand apart. While world leaders took a bus to the Arc de Triomphe and walked side-by-side as bells tolled to mark the exact moment 100 years ago when the war ended, Trump arrived with his own motorcade. Russian President Vladimir Putin also arrived separately and walked in by himself to the ceremony that included, among others, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump arrived separately "due to security protocols." But his insistence on standing apart didn't sit well with others, particularly after Trump drew fire for his decision to cancel his appearance at a memorial service Saturday because of rain.
The government declined calls for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to join Western leaders in condemning Russia in December over the Syrian civil war, fearing that doing so would negatively affect his impending summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, diplomatic sources said. Japan's dissociation from that action, despite its role this year as chair of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, has drawn criticism that it put its interests ahead of the humanitarian crisis in the city of Aleppo and damaged G-7 solidarity. In a statement issued Dec. 7, the leaders of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and the United States called for an immediate cease-fire in Aleppo, condemned the Syrian government for its attacks, and condemned Russia, Syria's chief backer, for blocking humanitarian aid. It also called on the United Nations to investigate reports of alleged war crimes and evidence to hold perpetrators responsible, while singling out Russia for preventing the U.N. Security Council from working effectively to end atrocities in Aleppo. Sources close to the G-7 said that with the exception of Japan, the leaders of its member countries, including U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, backed the statement.
Moscow responded angrily when Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian base in April after a chemical attack blamed on Assad's forces, and was also vexed by the U.S. downing of a Syrian warplane in June. After last month's incident, the Russian military suspended a hotline with the U.S. to prevent mid-air incidents and warned that it would track U.S.-led coalition aircraft as potential targets over Syria.
MOSCOW – Faced with the threat of a U.S. strike on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has a dilemma: allow U.S. missiles to hit Moscow's ally without a response or risk a military clash with the United States. If driven into a corner by a U.S. attack, Putin will be unlikely to sit back. Inaction would threaten his hard-won gains in Syria, dent Russia's prestige and erode his tough-guy image. "It's our president who decides the fate of the world!" ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky declared on Russian state television. During past crises in recent years, Putin has responded by overturning the chessboard.