'The Situation Is Bad': Tillerson Laments Sour Ties With Russia

Posted August 03, 2017

In the meantime, Tillerson is grappling with deep internal discord and plummeting morale at the State Department, in part because President Donald Trump has yet to fill top diplomatic posts, seven months into his administration.

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"I told President Putin when I saw him in the Kremlin in March and I've told Foreign Minister Lavrov repeatedly, "The situation's bad, but believe me, it can get worse" - and it just did", Tillerson told reporters. The criticisms have fed rumors that he is frustrated about sparring with the White House over policy and complaints within the department he is trying to "redesign" for the 21st century, and that has considered resigning.

Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said it is important that the United States president is thinking about the current situation and prospects for bilateral relations, but his intention to sign the sanctions bill into law contradicts the building of ties. If Trump were to veto the bill, Congress would nearly surely override his veto. The pair met a day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey over the Russian Federation investigation.

Tillerson's comments sound at odds with those of Vice President Mike Pence, who said the president is "unified" with Congress.

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Washington still maintains economic sanctions on Tehran for its ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism and its human rights abuses. Vice President Mike Pence, traveling Tuesday in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, sought to reframe the sanctions as a "further sign of our commitment" to counter Russian aggression in the region.

Tillerson said he understood why Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the U.S.to drastically cut its diplomatic presence in Russia, even though the move was in retaliation for a similar US action previous year under President Barack Obama. Tillerson said he plans to meet Lavrov on the sidelines of a regional summit in Manila, Philippines. In June, Trump pulled the USA out of the Paris climate change accord against Tillerson's advice.

"In terms of their response to that action, I think it's important to recognize that any leader of any country has their whole population watching them as well".

One former senior department official told Politico part of the delay is due to the new and convoluted decision-making process by Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil CEO.