Trump’s selection to become the US Secretary of State has prepared comments that will please a “Russia hysterical” Congress during his confirmation hearing.
Russia poses a danger to the U.S. and must be held accountable for its actions, Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state and the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., will tell senators at his confirmation hearing.
“Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia,” Tillerson, 64, will say before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, according to his prepared remarks. At the same time, he faults a lack of U.S. leadership for Russia’s aggressiveness, citing “weak or mixed signals with ‘red lines’ that turned into green lights.”
The remarks are a sharp departure from comments by Trump, who has called for a friendlier relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It’s also a stark turnaround for an oil baron who staked billions of dollars on Russia’s crude bonanza and as recently as 3 1/2 years ago was feted by Russia with its Order of Friendship. One of Tillerson’s most decisive moves as chief executive officer and chairman of Exxon was to make Russia the company’s biggest single exploration prospect globally.
Now, Tillerson faces the challenge of assuring lawmakers that he can pursue the broader interests of U.S. foreign policy after his 41-year career at Exxon, the world’s largest energy company by market value.
In his testimony, Tillerson says Russia has acted against U.S. interests and urges an “open and frank dialogue” so that “we know how to chart our own course.” But he makes no mention of U.S. intelligence findings that Russia hacked into last year’s presidential campaign, leaking documents in what the spy agencies say became an effort to help Trump win. Russia has denied responsibility for the hacking.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on Tillerson’s prepared statement saying that past “positive” assessments of the nominee referred to his professional qualities…
“This doesn’t mean we are wearing rose-colored glasses. We understand that Mr. Tillerson will continue to be rather firm in following his line.”
In what may be seen as folding to hardline, war-hawk senators who want tougher actions imposed against Russia, Tillerson says the U.S. should use “economic aid and economic sanctions as instruments of foreign policy when appropriate.”