U.S. weighs response to Russian move
In meeting, Tillerson sought answers on decision to expel American envoys
MANILA, Philippines — President Donald Trump’s administration has yet to decide how to respond to Russia’s move to expel hundreds of American diplomats but plans to deliver a response to Moscow by Sept. 1, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday.
A day after sitting down in the Philippines with Russia’s top diplomat, Tillerson said he’d asked “clarifying questions” about the Kremlin’s retaliation announced last month in response to new sanctions passed by Congress. Trump signed the bill last week. The Trump administration has struggled to determine how Russia’s move will affect the U.S. diplomatic presence in the country, as well as the broader implications for the troubled relationship between the nuclear-armed powers.
Despite the move, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emerged from the meeting declaring a readiness for more engagement with the U.S. on North Korea, Syria and Ukraine, among other issues. Tillerson broadly echoed that sentiment, saying the two countries had critical national security issues to discuss despite deep disagreements on some matters.
“I don’t think it is useful to just cut everything off on one single issue,” Tillerson said after his first meeting with Lavrov since the new sanctions were imposed. “These are two very large countries and we should find places that we can work together, let’s try to work together. Places we have our differences, we’re going to have to continue to find a way to address those.”
Tillerson also said that Russia has been showing “some willingness” to start talking about a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, devoid of real progress for years. That assessment came as Lavrov announced that the Trump administration had committed to sending its new special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, to Moscow to discuss next steps.
Yet several obstacles hang over any attempt to pursue a previous U.S. move to tighten more functional U.S.-Russia existing Russia sanctions. relationship: the new U. S. Trump’s administration sanctions, Russia’s retaliatory has argued there’s good reason move to expel diplomats, for the U.S. to seek a more and the ongoing U.S. Justice productive relationship. Tillerson Department investigation has cited modest signs into Russia’s election meddling of progress in Syria, where and possible Trump the U.S. and Russia recently campaign collusion. brokered a cease-fire in the
Fearing that Trump might war-torn country’s southwest, move to ease sanctions on as a sign there’s fertile ground Russia, Congress last month for cooperation. passed new legislation that The Syrian cease-fire reflected both added more sanctions a return of U.S.-Russia and made it harder for the cooperation to lower violence president to lift them. Trump there. The U.S. had looked and Tillerson opposed the warily at a series of safe zones legislation, but facing a likely in Syria that Russia had negotiated veto override, Trump signed along with Turkey and the bill. Iran — but not the U.S.
Moscow’s response to the Tillerson said Russian meddling sanctions was to announce it in the election had “created would force the U.S. to cut serious mistrust between its embassy and consulate our two countries.” Although staff in Russia by 755 people. he and other Cabinet officials That move stoked confusion have maintained that position in Washington, given that consistently, Trump has repeatedly the U.S. is believed to have questioned U.S. intelligence far fewer than 755 American about Moscow’s involvement employees in Russia. while denying any
Lavrov, describing his collusion with his campaign. meeting with Tillerson, said Russia and the U.S. had agreed to resume a high-level diplomatic channel that Moscow had suspended after a