Tillerson's Travel Plans Worry Allies in NATO
He's skipping an alliance meeting, will visit Moscow
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2017 10:00 AM CDT
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in at prime minister's residence to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo on March 16.   (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's travel plans aren't sitting well with his counterparts in Europe. Tillerson will skip a NATO meeting early next month, the first time in more than a decade a secretary of state has done so, reports Reuters. On top of that, Tillerson will travel to Russia later in the month. "No matter how you spin it, this is unfortunate symbolism," a veteran European diplomat tells Reuters, referring to the perception that the Trump White House is anti-NATO and pro-Russia. The State Department didn't provide an official reason for Tillerson's decision to skip the April 5-6 meeting in Brussels, notes CNN, but it appears he's opting instead to be in Florida for Trump's meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on April 6-7.

Tillerson will, however, see foreign ministers from NATO in Washington on Wednesday in a meeting about the Islamic State, notes Politico. The semiannual planning session in Brussels will be more focused on NATO itself, and Tillerson will be represented there by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon, who served under President Obama. After the China meeting in Florida, Tillerson will attend a G7 summit in Italy on April 10-11, and the State Department says he'll visit Moscow after that. Democrats were quick to pounce on the decision—"a grave error," says one House lawmaker—and ABC News rounds up their criticisms. (The move comes in the wake of FBI chief James Comey's confirmation of an investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.)

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