When NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels April 5-6, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson won't be there, U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday.
Instead, Tillerson plans to stay in the United States to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is expected to arrive April 6. Tillerson will travel later in the month to a country he is familiar with — Russia. The former ExxonMobil CEO has close ties with Moscow, having managed the company's Russia account and received the Order of Friendship from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013. "It feeds the narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsy with Russia," one former U.S. official told Reuters. "You don't want to do your early business with the world's great autocrats. You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of the transatlantic group of great democracies."
A spokesman for the State Department would not comment on Tillerson's travel plans. The news came out hours after FBI Director James Comey confirmed the bureau is investigating ties between the Russian government and Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Catherine Garcia