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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson received massive backlash when the media reported he planned to skip a formal NATO meeting on April 5-6, but kept his Moscow trip in mid-April. A Secretary of State has only missed a formal meeting twice in the past 21 years.
However, the media has buried the fact that Tillerson planned to skip the meeting because he scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jingping in Florida with President Donald Trump on April 6-7. They also casually mention that he will travel to a G7 meeting in Italy between his weekend with Xi and the trip to Russia.
But…Russia, Russia, Russia. The media continues to obsess over Trump and Russia. Look, Tillerson is not skipping NATO for the fun of it. The meeting with the Chinese president in America conflicts with the dates. Plus, China is not small potatoes in the matters of the state. Don’t forget that Tillerson has a trip to Italy between the NATO meeting and Russia trip.
The State Department planned to send Tillerson’s acting deputy Thomas Shannon to the Brussels meeting so the U.S. would not have a cold chair in the room.
Also, Tillerson has received some heat for not being around when Trump has hosted foreign leaders. He finally does and people criticize him. The man cannot win no matter what he does.
Optics have become incredibly important with President Donald Trump’s administration, especially since he has criticized NATO in the past and the left continues to sling accusations of him cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin:
“No matter how you spin it, this is unfortunate symbolism,” said one senior European diplomat of Tillerson’s plan to skip the April 5-6 NATO Brussels meeting, saying it undid the work of Trump’s vice president and defense minister, who visited NATO headquarters in February to provide reassurances after Trump’s criticism of the alliance.
Tensions have risen between Russia and NATO since the former invaded Ukraine in 2014 and annexed Crimea. Russian officials have also threatened former Soviet republics.
News about Tillerson’s decision arose a day after FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the department began an investigation over possible Russian interference into our presidential election last July.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner assured the media that the department reached out to NATO in order to reschedule:
“We’re appreciative of the effort to accommodate Secretary Tillerson,” Mr. Toner said. “We’ve offered alternative dates that the secretary could attend and those are now being considered.”
But it may not happen:
A NATO official acknowledged the discussions over a new meeting date. “We are in contact with the State Department on scheduling,” the official said. “All decisions concerning the date of a ministerial are taken by consensus by all 28 allies.”
Top officials from the 27 nations in NATO meet quarterly for two days behind closed doors to “discuss security strategies and approve top secret documents designed to guide the nuclear-armed alliance in areas ranging from training in Afghanistan to defenses against Iranian missiles.”
A diplomat expressed disappointment with the cancellation because he and the others “needed to hear his [Tillerson’s] vision for the alliance.” NATO considers the U.S. the de-facto head of the organization.
Other diplomats wished that Tillerson suggested moving the NATO meeting to Washington, D.C., this week since “most alliance foreign ministers and [NATO Secretary General Jens] Stoltenberg will be there for a meeting of an international coalition against the Islamic State militant group.”DONATE
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