Where’s Rex Tillerson Been?

The Secretary of State has been making headlines for not making headlines since being confirmed by the Senate so why has Rex Tillerson been keeping a low and almost silent profile?

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Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson in Brussels meeting with NATO allies. Credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The Washington Post reported that since being confirmed by the Senate, some of the State Department staff have yet to meet the appointed Secretary of State.

“His distant management style has created growing bewilderment among foreign officials who are struggling to understand where the United States stands on key issues. It has sown mistrust among career employees at State, who swap paranoid stories about Tillerson that often turn out to be untrue.” Those in Washington are concerned that Tillerson isn’t doing enough to lead the agency.

The article goes on to explain that while Tillerson was the CEO for ExxonMobil he would travel the world with one or two aids and would make deals behind close doors. This type of business suited him well, so many in the State Department assume he’s carried over this style of work to his new job.

However, this isn’t ExxonMobil, this is the State Department. Tillerson is dealing with Diplomats who’ve had years of experience, whereas he has had no government experience.

This week, Tillerson made his first trip to NATO headquarters to speak with other ministers about NATO’s budget. This is the meeting’s second attempt as the first was postponed due to Tillerson decision not to attend due to conflicting schedules.

The meeting has not made much progress. Trump has made several statements about NATO one being members of NATO needing to pay their “fair share” of military expenses.

A senior State Department official briefed reporters on the U.S.’s goals with NATO allies. Tillerson will echo Trump’s stance on spending, as well as pressing allies to increase NATO’s role in counter-terrorism efforts.

According to NATO statistics, the annual economic spending on military for NATO is 2 percent, but only five NATO allies hit that target in 2016 – the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Poland.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the NATO allies meeting in Brussels. Credit: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

However, this situation isn’t entirely Tillerson’s fault. He probably was the most successful pick out of all those for Trump’s cabinet. But, his inexperience in foreign policies and the administration’s deliberate undermining of the State Department have made Tillerson’s job even more difficult. Tillerson was wise to pick an experienced foreign deputy, Elliot Abrams, but Abrams, who was a critic of Trump was rejected.

The Guardian, wrote an article on Tillerson’s job performance so far and shared this sentiment, “Generous interpreters suggest he is smart and capable enough to play the long game, taking a back seat while he builds his relationship with Mr. Trump, his links to Generals Mattis and McMaster, and his understanding of foreign policy and government. But until and unless the day comes when he is ready and able to steer his own course, American foreign policy is subject to a combination of dangerous drift and equally alarming spurts of activity unchecked by institutional expertise.”

For more information:

The Guardian:
The Guardian view on Rex Tillerson: a sidelined secretary of state

Politico:
Tillerson’s message to NATO: Show Trump the money

Reuters:
German balks at Tillerson call for more European NATO spending

The Washington Post:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spends his first weeks isolated from an anxious bureaucracy
Tillerson clashes with NATO allies on defense spending during brief meeting

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