The Trump Administration will target areas where it sees the greatest risk and engage other countries in multilateral approaches, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said as he assured that the State Department would continue to remain effective despite a massive proposed budgetary cut. Asserting that the world has changed dramatically, Tillerson said the US will have a “very open” and “honest conversation” with its allies about how to share their burden which they have been carrying. “We all carry the burden. We’re not going to set the burden down. We’re not going to walk away. But we have to talk about how we’re going to carry this burden going forward because the world has changed,” he said. “We have to target the areas where we see the greatest risk and the greatest opportunity to achieve some success, but also engage other countries in multilateral approaches,” Tillerson told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Congressional hearing yesterday.
His remarks came in response to concerns expressed by top Senators that the budgetary cuts proposed by US President Donald Trump would have a major impact on America’s overseas engagement. “We’ve got to take new approaches that engage other countries who should share our same objectives for their part of the world. Then we will move and try to engage others elsewhere and keep the effort under way with the resources we have, but call on others to do more, as well,” Tillerson said.
Echoing views of the majority of members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chris Murphy said to many people who follow US foreign policy, the withdrawal of American leadership from the world in the first several months of the Trump administration looked deliberate. “Whether it be a proposed 32 per cent cut to your department, which represents us in some of the most important forms in every country around the world; whether it be a decision to back out of the most important international agreement that has been entered into over the course of the last decade or whether it be this decision, whether it be deliberate or not, to keep assistant secretary and deputy secretary positions unstaffed for a longer time than any of us can remember in any previous administration,” he said.
“It has resulted in some fairly dramatic statements by leaders around the world, not the least of which was (German) Chancellor (Angela) Merkel, who said upon President Trump’s first foreign trip ‘The times in which we can count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days’,” Murphy said. “So to take a big step back from US leadership, it does seem deliberate, it does seem intentional,” Murphy said. He said it could certainly be a strategy to telegraph to the rest of the world that they needed to make their own plans, need to form their own alliances and just simply cannot “rely” on the US. “So let me ask you that simple question. Is this a deliberate strategy? Should our allies start making plans that rely less on US leadership and US support?” he asked. Tillerson, however, disagreed with Murphy’s view. “I guess I take a completely counter view to the way you’ve interpreted the President’s actions and what the administration has had under way in discussions with many of our long-standing allies and friends.
“I think we’re really leaning into US leadership to make it clear to these long-standing allies and very important allies and friends of ours that America has been leading for a very long time, and the American people have been reaching in their pockets and paying for this leadership for a very long time,” Tillerson said. He said the US will continue to be in its leadership role, but its allies must do their part. “You need to understand, we’re going to have to do more than we’ve been doing, because we have that responsibility now. We should not look to America to carry us on their backs every step of the way,” he said.
“That’s part of the conversation that we’ve been trying to stimulate. And every leader has to express it to their own people in their own way. I would tell you, NATO is a perfect example, and you’re well aware of the demands we’ve been making of NATO members. NATO has never seen a response from countries like they’re seeing now because of this pressure that has been put on others,” he said.