One of the main assumptions that almost everyone has made about Tillerson’s nomination to be Secretary of State is that he would be inclined to improve relations with Russia. Some of his answers from his confirmation hearing today call that assumption into question:
It could be that Tillerson was just telling committee members what they wanted to hear, or he may have been posturing as a hard-liner in an attempt to overcompensate for his past business dealings, but it seems more likely that Tillerson was never all that interested in better relations with Moscow. If so many hawkish Republicans have vouched for him, it makes more sense that he sees the world in much the same way they do.
That is what makes his support for arming Ukraine seem especially significant. Sending arms to Ukraine is a bad idea now, and it was just as bad back in 2014. If Tillerson thinks the U.S. should have done that then, that doesn’t reflect well on his judgment, and it bodes ill for future U.S. policy on Ukraine and Russia. Even if he was mostly pandering to hard-liners on the committee, that tells us that he isn’t going to push back very hard against hawks that want more confrontational policies.
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