Resignation of Rex Tillerson: Trump changes his approach to foreign policy

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

21:32, 14 March 2018

Resignation of Rex Tillerson: Trump changes his approach to foreign policy

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

The reason for the castling in the State Department is the disagreement between Trump and Tillerson on a number of international issues. Appointment of Mike Pompeo corresponds to a change in approaches to US foreign policy, which is becoming more decisive and offensive

21:32, 14 March 2018

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Associated Press

US President Donald Trump on March 13 on Twitter announced a new political castling. Rex Tillerson leaves the post of Secretary of State. The new head of the State Department is CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Instead, the CIA will be headed for the first time by a woman - Gina Haspel, who previously served as director of the National Secret Service, which unit is responsible for carrying out secret operations. In the US media, rumors about the resignation of Tillerson were exaggerated from the end of last year.

The differences between Trump and Tillerson

The reason for the castling in the State Department is the disagreement between Trump and Tillerson on a number of international issues. The lack of mutual understanding between the president and the former secretary of state was highlited by the American media in October-December 2017. Professional oilman Tillerson, who previously headed the US oil company ExxonMobil, adhered to the soft foreign policy line that former President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. Tillerson relied on negotiations to resolve problematic issues, avoiding harsh statements. Trump, an influential businessman in the construction industry, who before his coming to power, also knew politics only by hearsay, has a completely different style of behavior. Trump reminds of republican "hawks" like former presidents Ronald Reagan or George Bush. He calls things by their proper names. Unlike Democrats and Tillerson, Trump, like a battering ram, goes ahead on problematic issues. The New York Times did not hide the fact that the president did not listen to the advice of his cautious secretary of state.

The most distinct disagreements between Trump and Tillerson appeared on the issue of resolving the North Korean problem and persuading the supreme leader Kim Jong-un to curtail the nuclear missile program. Tillerson believed that American diplomats need to negotiate directly with North Korean counterparts. He believed that by initiating negotiations with the DPRK, it would be possible to reduce the degree of tension and nuclear threat in the relations between the two states. However, Trump cut down the Tillerson initiative on North Korea, jokingly called him "a wonderful" secretary of state and asked not to waste energy on the persuasion of Kim Jong-un, with whom he promised to resolve issues. Trump adheres to a tough line with regard to North Korea and does not rule out the possibility of using military force in the event of a threat to US national security.

Trump achieved stricter sanctions against North Korea at the UN level and exchanged tough statements with Kim Jong-un. According to the latest package of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council in December 2017, UN member states must reduce by 89% the supply of refined oil to North Korea, return all North Korean workers to their homeland, and also check all North Korean vessels to prevent illegal transportation of fuel. To some extent, Trump's rigid approach proved to be profitable. In early January, Kim Jong-un expressed an interest in resuming the dialogue with South Korea, and in early March personally invited Trump to negotiate a nuclear program. In theory, talks should take place in a couple of months.

Similar disagreements between Trump and Tillerson were on other international issues. Tillerson did not share Trump's desire to break the "nuclear deal" with Iran. Trump repeatedly criticized Obama for his compliance with Iran, which intensified the development of ballistic missiles. After coming to power, he imposed new sanctions on the Middle Eastern country. The former secretary of state did not support the president's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate protection and reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Tillerson believed that the conflict between supporters and opponents of the Venezuelan president should be resolved through dialogue between the conflicting sides, while Trump imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials. Trump intends to step up military operations of the US army in Afghanistan against the Islamist Taliban movement, while Tillerson defended the idea of negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

New Secretary for new challenges

The resignation of Rex Tillerson and the appointment of Mike Pompeo to the post of Secretary of State correspond to the change in approaches in US foreign policy, which is becoming more decisive and offensive. Trump made castling on the eve of negotiations with Kim Jong-un, which are unlikely to be easy. Kim Jong-un until the last moment refused to go to contact and does not want to turn off the nuclear missile program. In his early statements, Pompeo emphasized that the US should not make concessions in negotiations with the DPRK on the nuclear missile program, and even supported the possibility of Kim Jong-un's departure from the post of head of state. If at the forthcoming talks he does not succeed to convince Kim Jong-un voluntarily to abandon nuclear tests and developing of ballistic missiles, then the Americans will continue to exert economic and political pressure on North Korea.

US will adhere the hard line in its relations with Iran. Recently ambiguous information appeared in the Kuwaiti press about planned air strikes of the USA and Israel on Iranian military targets in Syria. Iran takes an uncompromising stance, does not curtail the missile program and does not withdraw its troops from Syria, supporting President Bashar Assad in the fight against the Syrian opposition. Pompeo regards Iran as a sponsor of international terrorism and stands for a way out of the "nuclear deal". He is confident that the cooperation of Iran and North Korea in the nuclear sphere poses a real threat to US security.

Apparently, under the pressure of the US Congress, the Trump administration will nevertheless increase pressure on Russia. Otherwise, why he appointed to the post of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? The new Secretary of State considers the Russian Federation to be the main threat to the US, as it proved this by seizing and occupying part of the territory of Ukraine. Pompeo believes that Russia did nothing to defeat ISIS in Syria. Since Pompeo headed the CIA for more than a year and had access to confidential intelligence, he has a complete idea of what the Russian leadership is capable of and what provocations USA should expect. Pompeo has information about ballistic missiles being developed in Russia and believes that the US is protected from a nuclear threat. Pompeo also does not deny that Russia tried to intervene in the presidential elections in the US in 2016. The new Secretary of State can more actively promote activities aimed at containing Russian aggression, including the tightening of anti-Russian sanctions.

Tillerson had other tasks regarding Russia. During his last year's visit to Moscow and negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, he tried to convince the Russian side of the need for a more predictable and pragmatic foreign policy, to agree on the settlement of armed conflicts in the east of Ukraine and in Syria. For this reason Trump kept him in the first year of his presidency as Secretary of State, contrary to the disagreements described above. Tillerson personally knows Putin and knows the political and economic elite of Russia well, because in the 90s he was a representative of Exxon in Russia. However, Tillerson's diplomacy towards Russia did not meet expectations. The Russian Federation did not return Crimea to Ukraine and did not withdraw troops from Donbas. The Kremlin continues to provide military assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad in a conflict with the opposition. Since it was not possible to persuade Russia to make concessions, the US will continue to exert pressure on the Kremlin, and Pompeo is more suitable for this task in the Secretary of State's chair than Tillerson.

The replacement of Tillerson by Pompeo testifies to the deepening of the crisis of American diplomacy and the disappointment of the White House in the negotiations as an effective means of defending the interests of the US and achieving the goals. The unpredictable behavior of Russia, Iran and North Korea is proof of this. Trump reduced the funding of the State Department by 30%. According to the head of the Association of the American Foreign Policy Service Barbara Stephenson, since January 2017 large number of staff diplomats has left the State Department. American diplomats in their mass do not share the foreign policy approaches of their president. However, in the conditions of modern realities, Secretary of State should be a solid and executive person who will do what he is told and strictly uphold American interests, and not make concessions under the sauce of peaceful initiatives. Unfortunately, American diplomacy yet couldnt force Russia, Iran and North Korea to peace. Pompeo, who has established contacts with the American power bloc, is a suitable candidate.

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