Responding to questions from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) during his Senate confirmation hearing, Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, advocated for a more forceful U.S. stance toward Russia.
“Do you also agree that Russia under Mr. Putin’s leadership fails [to support the aspirations of their people, including basic human rights]?” Senator Cardin began his line of questioning toward Tillerson.
“Yes, sir,” Tillerson responded.
Tillerson then expressed support for the Magnitsky Act, which provided the federal government the means to impose sanctions on Russian individuals engaged in violations of human rights. Asked by Cardin if the State Department would adhere to the Magnitsky Act during a Trump administration, Tillerson responded, “I will ensure that if confirmed, myself and the State Department does comply with that law.”
Most strikingly though, given its departure from past Trump campaign statements, Tillerson denounced the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Tillerson denied that Russia had any legal basis for their incursion into Crimea, saying, “That was a taking of territory that was not [Russia’s].”
“I think the absence of a very firm and forceful response to the taking of Crimea was judged by the leadership in Russia as a weak response,” Tillerson said.
Asked by Cardin what his recommendation would have been following the Russian incursion into Crimea, Tillerson responded, “I would have recommended that Ukraine take all of its military assets it had available, put them on its eastern border, provide those assets with defensive weapons…announce that the U.S. is going to provide them intelligence and that either NATO or the U.S. will provide air surveillance over that border to monitor any movements.”
Tillerson also affirmed his commitment to NATO Article V, which decreed that an attack on one NATO member would be considered an attack on all NATO members.
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