Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is skipping an April 5-6 meeting of NATO foreign ministers for a U.S. visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russia later in the month, US officials said on Monday, a move allies may see as putting Moscow’s concerns ahead of theirs.
Tillerson intends to miss what would be his first meeting in Brussels with the 28 NATO members to attend Donald Trump’s expected April 6-7 talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The decisions to skip the NATO meeting and to visit Moscow risked feeding a perception that Trump may be putting US dealings with big powers before those of smaller nations that depend on Washington for their security.
“It feeds this narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsy with Russia,” one source told Reuters. “You don’t want to do your early business with the world’s great autocrats.”
“You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of transatlantic group of great democracies.”