Tillerson will be absent from NATO summit and will visit Russia in April
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be absent from the meeting of foreign ministers that NATO will hold on April 5 and 6 and will travel the following week to Russia, a State Department spokesman said Monday. The decision could be interpreted as a gesture to Moscow and a snub to the Atlantic Alliance that would go in line with Donald Trump’s election rhetoric.
The State Department did not disclose the reason for Tillerson’s absence at the NATO summit and announced he would be represented by Undersecretary Tom Shannon. According to Reuters, the head of US diplomacy will not attend the Alliance meeting to be in the United States during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, scheduled for similar dates.
Tillerson will travel to Russia, where he will be his first visit as Secretary of State, from Italy, where he will attend a meeting of foreign ministers of the G7, scheduled for 10 and 11 April. To compensate for his resignation to the NATO meeting, he will meet next Wednesday in Washington with the Foreign Ministers of the Alliance countries that will participate in a summit of the coalition that fights against the Islamic State.
A week before assuming the presidency, on January 20, Trump questionedWashington’s commitment to NATO, which it called an obsolete organization. He also called for an approach to the Russian government of Vladimir Putin, from which he got rid of praise as an electoral candidate.
Both ideas can crystallize into Tillerson’s travel plans and create an uncomfortable context. NATO was founded after the Second World War as a security umbrella of the West in the face of the threat of the Soviet Union.
In its first weeks in the White House, Republican Trump has restrained his reproaches to NATO, but has threatened that Washington step aside if member countries do not fulfill the commitment to allocate 2% of their GDP to spending in Defence.
“If your countries do not want to see the United States reduce its level of commitment to the Alliance, each of its capitals should show support for our common defense, ” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in February on his first visit to the United States. Headquarters of NATO in Brussels.
In parallel, Trump has been increasingly trapped by the Russian shadow. Secret contacts with the Russian ambassador in Washington have taken the charge of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and have forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to refrain from any investigation related to Moscow.
The serial on possible ties between Trump and the Kremlin grew on Monday after confirming publicly the FBI that are being analyzed. US intelligence agencies accuse Russia of wanting to help Trump in the election campaign with the Democratic Party’s mail robbery.
Any trip to Russia by a member of the Trump Government would be examined in detail. But in Tillerson’s case even more. As head of the oil company Exxon Mobile until a few months ago, Tillerson came into close contact with Putin’s environment and questioned Washington’s sanctions on Moscow over its territorial interference in Ukraine.
Tillerson held his first meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in February in Germany, without going over any relevant details.
During his confirmation process in the Senate, the Secretary of State distanced himself from Trump’s affinity with Putin: he defended sanctions against Russia and said that the US should “deter and prevent further expansion of a bad actor” in the region, In reference to the interference in Ukraine.
A few months earlier, Trump had minimized the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia. And shortly before assuming the presidency, he suggested he could lift the penalties to Moscow.