Tillerson skipping April NATO meeting but will travel to Russia later in the month instead
Rex Tillerson will miss an upcoming meeting with ministers from all 28 NATO countries at the beginning of April in order to attend President Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida, which is occurring at the same time. The Secretary of State will however travel to Russia later in the month, which isn’t exactly a good look considering earlier on Monday FBI director James Comey confirmed they were investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in their attempts to disrupt the 2016 election.
“It feeds this narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsy with Russia,” a former U.S. official told Reuters. “You don’t want to do your early business with the world’s great autocrats. You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of the transatlantic group of great democracies.”
Gushing language about great democracies aside, it is bad optics that Tillerson will meet with Putin before members of NATO, especially considering Trump’s dismissive attitude towards the strategic alliance, which is basically there to protect against Russian aggression in the first place. Trump had previously called NATO “obsolete” and berated Germany for not meeting the requirement to devote two percent of their GDP to defense. Trump seemed to be under the impression Germany specifically owed that money to the U.S., which is inaccurate, but the point is, Trump seems to like bullying U.S. allies and yet never seems to do the same to Putin. On top of all that, Tillerson himself has a friendly history with Putin in his capacity as former CEO of ExxonMobil.
At the same time, Tillerson can’t just ignore Russia completely. It’s not as though he is shrugging off a NATO meeting to pal around with Putin. It just appears to be a case of terrible timing. Tensions between Israel and Syria are mounting and the fight against ISIS continues, so someone needs to do something about all that eventually.
Still, does nobody in this administration care about how these things look, even to our own allies?
[Reuters | Photo: Getty]