Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson expressed hope that relations with Russia could be moderately improved under his stewardship, explaining that Kremlin aggression is mainly about one thing: bruised ego.
“The leadership of Russia has a plan, it is a geographic plan … to reestablish its role in the global world order,” Tillerson told senators. “They believe they deserve a rightful role in the global world order because they are a nuclear power.”
Tillerson, who has spent ample time in Russia, as former chief executive of ExxonMobil, expressed a take shared by many scholars and observers: that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to raise Russia’s international prestige toward the glory days of the Soviet Union.
He summarized the mindset as “Russia is here, Russia matters and Russia is a force to be dealt with.”
But Tillerson added that “the important conversation” to have with Russia is “do you want this to get worse, or does Russia desire a different relationship?”
“We’re not likely to ever be friends,” Tillerson concluded, noting that the the United States and Russia “do not hold the same values.”
But he expressed hope that the United States could at deal with Russia as an “unfriendly adversary” – and a partner from time to time — instead of an across-the-board “enemy.”
“With Russia, engagement is necessary in order to define what is that relationship going to be,” Tillerson said. “There is scope to define a different relationship that can bring down the temperature around the conflicts we have today.”