Amid reports of ongoing tension between President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison, who met with Tillerson on Thursday, asserted that he and the president “are working very well” on foreign policy matters.
“I am so pleased to be at NATO and to be able to tell my colleagues that there is no space between anyone in our administration, the leaders, the national security team, and myself, and Congress, about our support for NATO,” Hutchison said in an interview with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “It is a great alliance, and it is so effective now. There was a lull after the Cold War when we thought things were going to be peaceful in the world and easy. Well, it isn’t, but NATO has been a glue that has endured.”
Her remarks come on the heels of a news conference last week at which Tillerson denied ever having considered resigning as secretary.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” Hutchison said of Tillerson on Thursday, “He’s a Texan, and was a great CEO of Exxon and I think as he has said, he’s not a Washington person and so I think everybody is getting used to the styles and the things.”
Hutchison, a Republican who was nominated in June by President Trump to be the United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, spent nearly 20 years in the U.S. Senate. She was the first female Senator elected to represent Texas. Now, as the leading U.S. emissary to NATO, she said she stands behind the president’s foreign policy agenda.
“I am so impressed with, number one, both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill, and every top person in our administration, and especially the president, understands the importance of NATO,” she said. “I think we’re going forward in a very constructive way, dealing with a very different set of risks that are common risks to all of our NATO allies.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, however, Trump voiced a different view of NATO calling the alliance “obsolete.” Trump has since reversed that position, pledging his full support for the 68-year old alliance.
“It’s to the president’s great credit that he knew what he said in the campaign and then he listened to General Mattis, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary General Stoltenberg, about what NATO does,” Hutchison said, referring to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State and Secretary General of NATO, respectively.
She said the president ultimately realized that “if you didn’t have a NATO and we were out there by ourselves, alone, how much harder it would be.”
“I think he pivoted,” she added.
Hutchison also accused Russia of attempting to sew dissent among member nations to the long-standing transatlantic alliance.
“The things that Russia is doing are very long term, they’re trying to break down the bonds of the NATO alliance by putting out false news,” she said.
She also commented on what she called “malign influences” surrounding the Russian meddling in the United States presidential elections in 2016.
“It’s amazing how sophisticated they’ve become. And NATO does know it,” Hutchison said.
She noted that NATO is taking steps to defend its member countries against what she called Russian “hybrid warfare.”
“We are in the stages of adapting to a very new type of warfare,” she said. “It’s something that we are beginning to understand and looking at defenses to deal with it.”