Ex-NATO official: Concerning that Tillerson is skipping meeting

In an interview with the conservative news site Independent Journal Review, Mr Tillerson said he had not met Mr Trump before the election.

"I can not fathom why the Administration would pursue this course except to signal a change in American foreign policy that draws our country away from western democracy's most important institutions and aligns the United States more closely with the autocratic regime in the Kremlin", [Representative Eliot Engel] added.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will skip a planned meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization foreign ministers next month, while also arranging a visit to Russian Federation, the State Department said. Tillerson will also attend the G7 meeting in Italy before traveling to Moscow.

Tillerson's expected itinerary means he will be in Russia at a time when Trump associates are being scrutinized for any links to alleged Kremlin-sponsored cyberattacks during the presidential campaign as well as alleged meetings between the Russian government and Trump campaign officials. Spinning scheduling conflicts and routine foreign trips for a secretary of state as part of some imagined Trump-Putin connection is particularly irresponsible for anyone who says they support global engagement over unnecessary conflict.

"The more basic question is consulting first with your allies before you engage with the Russians", Vershbow said, "so hopefully there will be other ways that he can do that". The meeting takes place shortly before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the USA for a crucial meeting with the Trump administration.

The former Exxon Mobil CEO - who has no previous government experience - was one of Donald Trump's most notable and surprising major appointments.

"If true, Tillerson's behaviour is a slap in the face to America's strongest allies", said Mr Benitez.

While in South Korea, Tillerson was reported in the Seoul press to have snubbed the government by telling Korean officials he was too exhausted to dine with them. He was "stunned" that Trump wanted him to be the next Secretary of State.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was in Washington on Tuesday for meetings at the Pentagon ahead of Wednesday's coalition talks, and NATO officials played down the apparent Tillerson snub.

"The President looks forward to meeting with his North Atlantic Treaty Organisation counterparts to reaffirm our strong commitment to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and to discuss issues critical to the alliance, especially allied responsibility-sharing and NATO's role in the fight against terrorism", the White House said in a statement.

As a candidate, he spoke frequently of his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and said improving relations with the traditional US adversary would be positive.

  • Leroy Wright