WATCH: Russia respects strength, expert says

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's impromptu meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was not surprising, according to a Russian scholar who says Moscow "respects a strong leader."

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"Two reasons why it was always likely Putin would meet Tilllerson," says Patrick Basham, director of the Democracy Institute. "One, they have their own professional relationship ... most importantly Russians respect a strong leader."

Days after the U.S. launched a strategic missile attack on Syria in response to the country's use of chemical weapons, questions swirled as to whether the Putin would meet with Tillerson during the secretary's first visit to Russia in his new capacity as chief diplomat.

But Basham tells The Hill's Molly K. Hooper that "respect gets you far with the Russians ... and Trump’s actions as of late, Rex Tillerson's profile, background and manner, all suggest a meeting was on the cusp."

Watch the video above to hear Basham in his own words.