While President Donald Trump has questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia sought to interfere in last year’s elections, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to indicate his support for the assessment in remarks on Monday.
Tillerson told reporters during a press conference at the ASEAN Regional Forum in the Philippines that Russian meddling in the elections was “certainly a serious incident.”
The nation’s top diplomat said he discussed the issue of alleged Russian interference in the elections during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“We talked about it in the discussion we had with Minister Lavrov yesterday and trying to help them understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the U.S., the American people, and the Russian people,” Tillerson said.
He added, “That this had created serious mistrust between our two countries and that we simply have to find some way to deal with that.”
Tillerson and Lavrov also discussed Russia’s demand that the U.S. cut its diplomatic staff in the country by 755 people.
“I told the foreign minister that we had not made a decision regarding how we will respond to Russia’s request to remove U.S. diplomatic personnel,” Tillerson said.
He added, “I asked several clarifying questions just to ensure I understood kind of their thinking behind that diplomatic note we received, but told him we would respond by September the 1st.”
The move by Moscow came after Congress passed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia. President Donald Trump later signed the bill but was highly critical of the legislation.
Tillerson said the administration has a very pragmatic view of U.S.-Russian relations, suggesting the two countries need to work together on areas of serious national security interest.
“The fact that we want to work with them on areas that are of serious national security interest to us while at the same time having this extraordinary issue of mistrust that divides us, that’s just what we in the diplomatic part of our relationship are required to do,” Tillerson said.
“So I don’t think it is useful to just cut everything off over one single issue,” he added. “I think, again, these are two very large countries, and we should find the places that we can work together.”
by RTT Staff Writer
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