U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip an April 5-6 meeting of NATO foreign ministers for a U.S. visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russia later in the month, U.S. officials said on Monday, a step allies may see as putting Moscow’s concerns ahead of theirs.
The decisions to skip the NATO meeting and to visit Moscow risked feeding a perception that Trump may be putting U.S. dealings with big powers before those of smaller nations that depend on Washington for their security, said two former U.S. officials.
Umm, ya think?
Trump has often praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Tillerson worked with Russia’s government for years as a top executive at Exxon Mobil Corp, and has questioned the wisdom of sanctions against Russia that he said could harm U.S. businesses.
“It feeds this narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsy with Russia,” said one former U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He has to play footsy. His hands are way too little for him to get handsy. But let’s go on…
“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,” he added.
Any visit to Russia by a senior Trump administration official will be carefully scrutinized after the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday publicly confirmed his agency was investigating any collusion between the Russian government and Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.