Accused of being too cozy with the Kremlin, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state called Russia a “danger” Wednesday as he appeared to contradict the US president-elect’s oft-proclaimed determination to improve ties with Moscow.
While Rex Tillerson signaled his intention to be clear-eyed about Moscow, he refused to say whether he would back economic sanctions against Russia, and surprised senators at his confirmation hearing by revealing he has not yet discussed with Trump the incoming administration’s position on Washington’s former Cold War foe.
But during pointed questioning Tillerson said he believed it was “a fair assumption” that Russian President Vladimir Putin would have ordered his nation’s meddling into the US presidential election.
The former ExxonMobil chief executive’s remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee came against a backdrop of controversy over US intelligence conclusions that Russia conducted election-related cyberattacks against US democratic institutions—revelations he called “troubling.”
“Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests.”
Tillerson, whose entire professional career has been in the energy industry, has faced criticism for his business relations with Putin and other authoritarian leaders.
But the 64-year-old stressed that as Washington’s top diplomat, he will conduct a more robust US foreign policy than during President Barack Obama’s presidency.
To achieve 21st century stability, “American leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted,” he said.—AFP