When Mr Tillerson's plane touched down in Moscow, it was not even clear whether President Vladimir Putin would deign to meet with him. But the atmosphere was far from cordial. The two men sparred over Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own citizens and over Russia's interference in the American election.
Earlier on Wednesday, after holding talks with the US secretary of state, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said some progress had been made on Syria, and a working group would be set up to examine the poor state of US-Russia ties. "The world's two foremost nuclear powers can not have this kind of relationship".
Where relations between the two countries go from this point on is hard to guess.
During the 2016 USA presidential election campaign, Trump had frequently called for warmer ties with Putin.
"This reminds me very much of the events of 2003, when USA representatives in the Security Council showed alleged chemical weapons discovered in Iraq", Putin said, bringing back the spectre of a war started on lies, whose result is a disintegrating, destroyed Iraq. All this seemed to indicate that Mr Trump saw Mr Putin as a potential partner, even ally.
The chemical attack killed about 80 people and injured many more, yet Russian Federation does not seem to want to budge from its position of support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Lavrov denounced the missile strike on Syria as illegal and accused Washington of behaving unpredictably.More news: Black Hawk helicopter crashes in Leonardtown, Md
But in an apparent reversal, Mr Trump said the alliance is a "bulwark of global peace and security".
Ahead of the summit, Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, was reported to have accused the USA of "primitive, loutish rhetoric" on Syria as he said Mr Tillerson wanted to discuss no-fly zones in the war-torn country.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council: "We want to work with Russian Federation to advance a political process in Syria".
It's suspected that sarin gas was used in an attack on a northern Syrian town at the start of April. Later: Syria, Iraq, Libya, CT, climate, Iran.
Tillerson got what has been described as "an icy welcome".
Looking at the resolution's supporters sitting around the horseshoe-shaped table in the Security Council, he said: "You are afraid of an impartial investigation" that the Syrian government was being blamed for chemical weapons attacks carried out by extremists. Russian Federation is a Syrian ally and backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year long civil war, while the USA has long advocated for the Syrian dictator's ouster. His efforts have crashed much more quickly and dramatically.