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Exclusive: Tillerson plans to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April - sources

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Exclusive: Tillerson plans to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April - sources

By Arshad Mohammed and John Walcott

REUTERS

 

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks in Washington, U.S. on March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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.

 

Tillerson intends to miss what would be his first meeting in Brussels with the 28 NATO members to attend President Donald Trump's expected April 6-7 talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, four current and former U.S. officials said.

 

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.

 

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.

 

State Department spokesman Mark Toner had no immediate comment on whether Tillerson would skip the NATO meeting or visit Russia. Two U.S. officials said Tillerson planned to visit Moscow on April 12.

 

"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.

 

"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.

 

Trump has already antagonized and worried NATO allies by referring to the Western security alliance as "obsolete" and by pressing other members to meet their commitments to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defence.

 

Last week, he dismayed British officials by shrugging off a media report, forcefully denied by Britain, that the administration of former President Barack Obama tapped his phones during the 2016 White House race with the aid of Britain's GCHQ spy agency.

 

A former NATO diplomat said he hoped there might be a way for Tillerson to attend both meetings, for example by changing the date of the NATO talks.

 

The former diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was vital to present a united front toward Moscow. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 to serve as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.

 

"Given the challenge that Russia poses, not just to the United States but to Europe, it's critical to engage on the basis of a united front if at all possible," the diplomat said.

 

(Additional Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

 
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-- © Copyright Reuters 2017-03-21

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Well at least Trump's priorities are clear

1 person likes this

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A post with false information has been removed.   Continue to post in that manner and suspensions will be issued.  

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1 hour ago, Scott said:

A post with false information has been removed.   Continue to post in that manner and suspensions will be issued.  

 

Geez Scotty you've got such a hard-on for me

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ID: 9   Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, spidermike007 said:

But, why should he attend a NATO meeting? Why create solidarity and harmony with our greatest allies, when he has an opportunity to meet with two of the biggest trouble makers on the planet? 

 

Of course, if he wanted to meet with the NATO group, it would have been a very simple thing to schedule the Chinese meeting for another date. Again, this administration is playing with alternative facts. Never, ever expect the truth from the deflector in chief, nor his henchmen. And do not expect real diplomacy from this group. They do not have it in them. Trump is all about sowing disharmony, avoiding peace at all costs, and taking an adversarial approach to all of our most important relationships. Those that took a century or more to build. 

The NATO people seem to be willing to give it a go to reschedule. Perhaps it was the President of China who had a tight schedule that was difficult to alter, hence NATO being willing to bend a little to accommodate Secretary Tillerson.

Edited by Ramen087

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13 hours ago, Ramen087 said:

The NATO people seem to be willing to give it a go to reschedule. Perhaps it was the President of China who had a tight schedule that was difficult to alter, hence NATO being willing to bend a little to accommodate Secretary Tillerson.

 

I sense that was not the issue. I think the negative press, and the flack that the administration got, from even considering such a ridiculous tactic, was too much to bear. They are extremely sensitive to public perception at the moment, with all of the pressure from the Russia scandal, the Health care bill woes, and many other problems the administration is having, in trying to establish some traction. One less headache. It was just a really dumb, boneheaded, childish, churlish, adolescent, amateurism idea.

 

We need our allies more now than ever before. Trump, being the center of the universe, sometimes does not take things like that into account. This highly unskilled, highly inexperienced, neophyte deflector in chief sometimes has a very, very hard time distinguishing between campaign rhetoric, and practical policy, now that he unexpectedly won the office. 

Edited by spidermike007

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1 hour ago, spidermike007 said:

 

I sense that was not the issue. I think the negative press, and the flack that the administration got, from even considering such a ridiculous tactic, was too much to bear. They are extremely sensitive to public perception at the moment, with all of the pressure from the Russia scandal, the Health care bill woes, and many other problems the administration is having, in trying to establish some traction. One less headache. It was just a really dumb, boneheaded, childish, churlish, adolescent, amateurism idea.

 

We need our allies more now than ever before. Trump, being the center of the universe, sometimes does not take things like that into account. This highly unskilled, highly inexperienced, neophyte deflector in chief sometimes has a very, very hard time distinguishing between campaign rhetoric, and practical policy, now that he unexpectedly won the office. 

Maybe your spider sense is on to something, maybe it isn't.  Let's see how the schedules work out and if the Secretary attends both meetings.

Edited by Ramen087

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BANGKOK 24 March 2017 17:12
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