Madeleine Albright: Tillerson Skipping NATO Meeting Sends ‘Unfortunate Signal’

Russia’s Foreign Ministry declined on Tuesday to confirm or deny reported plans by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to visit Moscow, expressing its surprise at the “regular leak” of information from Washington.

Tillerson will travel to Moscow in about two weeks, after he attends meetings of G-7 foreign ministers in Italy slated for April 10-11, the State Department says.

Concerns that Trump is too close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom the West has sought to isolate for annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, made Tillerson’s expected visit to Brussels all the more pressing, European allies said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the meeting earlier Tuesday.

The message, according to former USA ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, is “China and Russian Federation are more important to us than our most important democratic allies, with whom we have stood shoulder to shoulder since 1949”, when the NATO treaty was signed. The Kremlin’s actions and any contacts it might have had with Trump campaign officials are separately being investigated by Congress and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel of NY, said he “cannot fathom” the decision, which will “shake the confidence of America’s most important alliance”.

European allies will tell the United States’ new defence secretary on Wednesday (15 February) that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is not the weak alliance US President Donald Trump has accused it of being, at one of the most anticipated North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meetings in years.

The NATO official said rumors started surfacing that Tillerson wasn’t coming to the meeting a few weeks ago.

Representative Eliot Engel, the senior Democrat on the US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, said Tillerson was making a mistake by skipping the Brussels talks.

Many have criticised Mr Trump’s 28 per cent cut to the budget of the State Department in his proposed budget, because diplomacy is necessarily a large part of the USA security agenda.

Tillerson will meet “a lot of the allies tomorrow, if not all” during a planned anti-Daesh coalition conference in Washington on Wednesday, Toner said.

Trump has moderated his stance since, though has continued to chide some members for not paying a promised 2 percent of GDP into their defense budgets.

Notable for its absence from this global gathering on countering Islamic State will be Russian Federation, since Russia is not part of the global coalition.

Objections from at least two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Mike Lee, have blocked a quick vote in the full U.S. Senate for months and Senate leaders have not scheduled a more time-consuming roll-call vote.

State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks on issues related to visas and travel