On December 13, 2016, Trump officially announced that he'd tapped Tillerson as his choice for the next US Secretary of State.
However, this week's Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing was no walk in the park for Tillerson who came under fire from Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, and Committee Chairman Bob Corker for his alleged inability to take a hardline stance against Russia.
Meanwhile, during the course of the hearing, Tillerson stressed that he supported anti-Russian sanctions including the controversial Magnitsky Act, the punitive US response to Crimea's reunification with Russia, and the idea that allegedly "targeted bombing" in Aleppo by Russia and Syria "violated the international order."
Also, Tillerson told the Committee that "while Russia seeks respect and relevance on the global stage, its recent activities have disregarded American interests."
Commenting on this, Valery Garbuzov described Tillerson's push to criticize Russia during the Senate hearing as a sort of tactic in the face of circumstances.
"Making Senators confirm his nomination is a rather tricky task for Tillerson, which is why one should not expect that he will make pro-Russian speech, especially in the Senate. I think that his statements are related to the tactic which he has to stick to," according to Garbuzov.
"On the one hand, he is a pragmatic person who supports the review of Russian-American relations, but on the other – he will soon become a statesman who is forced to say different things. However, it does not mean that his activities as the US Secretary of State will go in the same direction," Garbuzov said.
According to him, "if Tillerson takes the post of US Secretary of State, he will stick to Donald Trump's policy, and Trump, for his part, stands for developing ties with Russia."
The thing I like best about Rex Tillerson is that he has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 13 декабря 2016 г.
Garbuzov was echoed by Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian Lower House's International Affairs Committee, who said that Tillerson made his anti-Russian statements specifically for the Senate, where anti-Russian sentiment remains strong.
"So these statements should not be seen as a defining vector of the new US Administration's foreign policy," Slutsky said, adding that Tillerson does not exclude a dialogue with Moscow despite his harsh rhetoric.
According to him, it adds to the possibility of restoring a constructive line in Russian-American relations.
Moscow-based political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko, in turn, warned that it would be extremely naive to see Tillerson as kind of a "pro-Russian dove", who will try to make peace despite the White House's will.
"Thus far, Tillerson is just making statements which may finally prove to be considerably out of line with real policy, which will not be the continuation of that of Barack Obama," Minchenko said.
"Neither President Trump, nor his Administration will be easy partners for Russia; they can bring Moscow lots of complicated surprises, especially as far as the sensitive issue of bilateral relations is concerned. For example, the White House may propose that Moscow [and the US] should collude against China," Bordachev said.
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