Tillerson Had 'Clarifying' Questions for Russia

Regarding the expulsion of US diplomats, embassy staff
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2017 9:46 AM CDT
Tillerson: We'll Have Response for Russia by Sept. 1
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives for a courtesy call on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila in the Philippines on Monday.   (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Mark your calendars: The US will make up its mind by Sept. 1 on how to respond to Russia's expulsion of 755 diplomats, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday. The news followed a meeting between Tillerson and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in the Philippines, during which Tillerson says he asked "clarifying questions" about Russia's move. The latest on the subject, and Tillerson in general:

  • As for what Lavrov may have needed to clarify, the AP notes that Moscow's directive that the US cut 755 embassy and consulate staffers was confusing to some, as it's thought the US government doesn't employ that many people in the country.
  • USA Today's take on the meeting highlights this quote from Tillerson: "I don't think it is useful to just cut everything off on one single issue [of election meddling]. These are two very large countries and we should find places that we can work together, let's try to work together."

  • The US may be giving itself a few weeks to formulate a response, but the Hill sees "a sign of further steps Russia is taking in response to the sanctions." It cites a brief Reuters report that quotes Russia's deputy foreign minister as telling Russia media, "We will of course intensify work related to ... reduction of dependence on US payment systems, on the dollar as a settling currency and so on. It is becoming a vital need."
  • Splinter rounds up what it sees as increasing cries for Tillerson to abandon his post, and points to this Foreign Policy tweet from Sunday: "We're in the midst of Tillerson's career deathwatch. 'Rexit' is coming."
  • That tweet linked to one of Foreign Policy's own articles, published Friday, with this not exactly subtle title: "Why Has Rex Tillerson Belly-Flopped as Secretary of State?" Derek Chollet had high hopes for Tillerson out the gate, but finds that as far as "rough starts" go, "Tillerson's beginning is by far the worst of the modern era." Chollet looks at four possible reasons.
  • Foreign Policy isn't alone in its coverage. The New York Times describes a State Department bogged down by micromanagement—including high-level staffers whipping out their red pens to make "extensive" edits on boilerplate texts—and glaring gaps, writing Tillerson "has failed to nominate anyone to most of the department's 38 highest-ranking jobs, leaving many critical departments without direction."
  • But, for now, he's very much on the job. The AP reports Tillerson on Monday met with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in the highest-level interaction thus far between a member of the Trump administration and the controversial leader.
(More Rex Tillerson stories.)

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