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Tillerson Wants To Know Why US Taxpayers Should Care About Ukraine

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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European diplomats were taken aback when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked an honest question during a meeting of diplomats in Italy.

In a bit of uncommon frankness, especially for a diplomatic gathering, Tillerson wondered aloud to his fellow foreign ministers: “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?”

The offhand remark, made to representatives of the Group of Seven nations, put the European contingent on its heels.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters he responded that American taxpayers should want the European Union to be “strong politically, strong from a security point of view, and strong economically,” Bloomberg reported. Ukraine isn’t an EU member, but Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has set 2020 as a target date for a membership application.

Although Tillerson’s direct question wasn’t a breach of protocol, it may have European diplomats searching for a hidden meaning about the U.S. stance toward Russia’s military interventions in Ukraine.

Some European Union members have expressed concern that President Donald Trump will look the other way on Ukraine order to improve relations with Moscow. Tillerson, however, has been clear that U.S.- and EU-imposed sanctions against Russia should remain in force. (RELATED: Financial Powers Back Tillerson’s Tough Stance On Russia)

 “The reason the sanctions were put in place continue to exist,” Tillerson said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday. “There’s been no change of the status of the situation in Ukraine or Crimea. And those sanctions will remain in place until those issues are addressed.”

State Department spokesman R.C. Hammond dismissed the idea that allies should read deeper into Tillerson’s question, saying that it was just a “rhetorical device,” according to Bloomberg.

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