WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (KUNA) — The recently resigned CEO of Exxon Mobil, now nominated to the top diplomatic post in the country by President-elect Donald Trump, suggested on Wednesday that he is in favor of arming Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, and said the Obama Administration lacked leadership among its NATO allies.
Secretary of State-designee Rex Tillerson told lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Congress has long pressed to arm Kiev as fighting continues in the east of the country following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
However, President Barack Obama declined to provide much more than light equipment such as defensive gear for Ukrainian troops.
“There should have been a show of force” because sanctions are not enough to say “it stops here,” Tillerson said.
His responses showed an attempt to distance himself from Russia, where he personally received a “Order of Friendship” award from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Exxon also has no fewer than 10 drilling projects in the Russian Arctic, the Black Sea, and Siberia, according to an investigative report in the newsmagazine POLITICO.
Exxon has also repeatedly lobbied the Senate Foreign Relations Committee not to expand sanctions on Russia, as the company would lose billions of dollars’ worth of business deals, the report noted.
Earlier, Tillerson said he has no knowledge of such lobbying efforts, but agreed that Russia is a “bad actor,” and the annexation of Crimea, “was a taking of territory that was not theirs.”
The US should have also pushed NATO to step up its military support for Ukraine, he added.
“Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia,” Tillerson said.
“But it was in the absence of American leadership that this door was left open and unintended signals were sent.”
The comments signaled a break from Trump’s campaign pledges to withdraw NATO funding if other countries didn’t step up and do their share.
On whether he agrees with the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian hackers interfered in the election campaign in a bid to undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Tillerson said it is “a fair assumption” that they did.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio also pressed Tillerson on whether he considers Putin a “war criminal” based on the bombing campaigns in Chechnya and Syria.
“I would not use that term,” he responded. (end)
Source : Latest News | Kuna