Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, emphasized the importance of accountability and firm leadership with regard to U.S. relations with Russia and China during his opening statement Wednesday at his Senate confirmation hearing. Tillerson urged an "open and frank dialogue with Russia" and advocated for holding Russia "accountable for its actions," but he also warned U.S. leaders to be "clear-eyed about our relationship with Russia." "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."
Tillerson advocated for the U.S. to similarly assert its leadership in China, urging the U.S. to "deal with what we see, not what we hope." Echoing President-elect Donald Trump's stance on the importance of other nations fulfilling their obligations to their own national security, Tillerson said the U.S. must hold countries accountable when they fail to follow through on their promises. "We cannot continue to accept empty promises, like the ones China has made," Tillerson said.