Tillerson Attends G20 Summit with NATO and Russia as Policy Priorities


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks to Department of State employees upon arrival at the Department of State in Washington, U.S., Feb. 2, 2017.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks to Department of State employees upon arrival at the Department of State in Washington, U.S., Feb. 2, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

The U.S. and Russian relationship continues to cause friction, particularly over NATO.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended the G20 summit Thursday in Bonn, Germany for his first official foreign trip to discuss the future of NATO and meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

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Foreign policy rhetoric under U.S. President Donald Trump’s new administration has left many around the world wondering what will materialize, particularly in regards to NATO and Russia. Russian spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that in the scheduled meeting will Tillerson, Lavrov will “discuss bilateral relations, which were taken into a dead end by the previous administration.”

Tillerson and Lavrov’s meeting comes amid ongoing accusations of Russian hacking and the resignation of Trump’s national security aide Michael Flynn after allegations that he discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak before Trump took power.

A key point of friction between the two states is U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, which many say could be reversed under Trump’s new administration.

Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the U.S. “expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.” Russia, however, has remained steadfast on keeping its presence in the territories.

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Trump has also been critical of NATO, labeling the bloc as a drain on U.S. resources. Many European states have been wary of waning U.S. support, especially Baltic and Eastern European states who are fearful of Russian influence in the region.

During a NATO defense meeting yesterday, U.S. defense secretary James Mattis explained that while the U.S. would support the bloc, other NATO allies needed to increase their defense spending or the U.S. would start to “moderate” its commitment to the organization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told state media that NATO has justified its expansion amid perceived Russian threats and “has been constantly provoking us in order to embroil us in confrontation.”

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Tillerson, a former CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil, is known for his close business and personal connections to Russia. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson Russia’s Order of Friendship.

Other pressing foreign policy concerns for Tillerson at the talks include ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria, a missile launch by North Korea and ongoing disputes over territorial claims in the South China Sea. The two-day talks in Bonn come ahead of the main G20 meeting in Hamburg scheduled for July, where heads of state from 20 of the world’s major economies will be present.

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