Remarks by Secretary of State: Excerpts Interview With Steve Inskeep of NPR

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QUESTION:  What’s the end state with Russia?  The ideal end state, of course.

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  I think we would like to have a relationship with Russia where they do not threaten and where they don’t pose a threat to the United States or to any of the Western part of the world, that Russia wants to be a positive member of the global world order, not a disruptive part and not a threat to others.

QUESTION:  I’m thinking about the fact that we’re talking on a day when the United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has made more statements criticizing Russia for its involvement in human rights abuses, effectively, in Syria.  And it makes me wonder if the odds of an improved relationship with Russia have gone down since the administration has taken office.

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  I don’t think the odds have changed one way or the other.  I think the situation is, as I assessed it, and this what, in fact, I said in my trip to Moscow in my meetings with Foreign Minister Lavrov and with President Putin is:  My assessment is the U.S.-Russia relationship is at an all-time low, the lowest point it has been since the end of the Cold War.  And I would tell you that their response was they didn’t disagree with that.  I said we have a very low – almost no – level of trust between us and that my statement on that was this cannot be the relationship to exist between the two most powerful nuclear nations on the planet.  We cannot have this kind of relationship.  And it’s in a downward spiral.  We’ve got to stabilize it, and we’ve got to begin to understand how we’re going to turn this around.

QUESTION:  Do your personal relationships in Russia help at all, or is this really just a national calculation of interest and they see their interests differently than the United States will see its interests?

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  Well, I think Russia is going to act in Russia’s best interest.  This is what all nations do.  I think to the extent that I have longstanding relationships with the leadership in Russia, to the extent that’s helpful in that they already know me, they don’t have to try to figure out who this guy, Rex Tillerson is, because they’ve dealt with me for so many years, perhaps that’s helpful in that my ability to communicate is very straightforward, very candid.  It’s not nuanced, because I have found in dealing with the Russian leadership in the past that is what they respect.

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