Trump's secretary of state choice to say Russia must be held to account


WASHINGTON: US President-elect Donald Trump's secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday will voice concerns about Russia's actions on the world stage and say NATO should be alarmed by a resurgent Moscow.

The Trump transition team circulated Tillerson's opening statement to be delivered during his Senate confirmation hearing.

In them, he will explain to some extent why Trump has been in favor of a warmer relationship with Moscow, saying Washington needs an open and frank dialogue with Russia on its ambition in order for the United States to chart its own course.

But his rhetoric expressing concern about Russia goes beyond Trump's own frequent expressions of the need for better ties with Russia after what he feels was a bungling of the relationship by outgoing President Barack Obama.

"Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia," Tillerson will say. "But it was in the absence of American leadership that this door was left open and unintended signals were sent."

He cited Obama's failure to act against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people after saying in 2012 that doing so would cross a "red line" as a weak signal to Moscow.

"We backtracked on commitments we made to allies. We sent weak or mixed signals with 'red lines' that turned into green lights. We did not recognise that Russia does not think like we do," Tillerson will say.

Tillerson, like Trump, will express a dim view of China's aggressive moves in the South China Sea such as its building of an island to serve as a military base.

"China's island-building in the South China Sea is an illegal taking of disputed areas without regard for international norms," he will say.

Tillerson will say that challenges posed by Islamic State, China, North Korea and Iran represent new global realities that must be addressed with an assertive United States.

"To achieve the stability that is foundational to peace and security in the 21st century, American leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted," he will say.

Trump calls Russia reports "fake news - a total political witch hunt"

US President-elect Donald Trump, in an apparent reference to media reports that the intelligence briefing he received last week included an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising information on him, said on Twitter on Tuesday: "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT."


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017