AROUND THE NATION
Tillerson, minister ratchet up tensions
VIENNA – The top diplomats from the United States and Russia sat yards from each other at a security conference here Thursday in Vienna and lobbed broadsides that were sharply at odds with the tone of President Trump and President Vladimir Putin’s meeting last month.
“We will never accept Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson vowed in his opening remarks at the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe. Russia is “arming, leading, training and fighting alongside anti-government forces” in Eastern Ukraine, Tillerson added.
Moments earlier, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, gave such a rapid-fire list of grievances – complaining about the growing expansion of NATO and the West’s increasing limits on Russian-language journalists, for example – that his interpreter could barely keep up.
“We’ve reached an absolute low point regarding confidence between the main players,” the secretary general of the security forum, Thomas Greminger, told reporters at the start of the conclave.
Whether Tillerson’s tough stance on Russia is in keeping with Trump’s often-stated wish to improve relations with Russia is unclear.