U.S.-Russian relations, currently at their worst since the Cold War, will not reset “with a clean slate,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told NBC on Sunday.
Tillerson’s comments come after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday. The Secretary of State has previously said he is committed to improving relations, but he tempered any expectations for a Russian “reset” like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempted in 2009.
“I think terms like having a reset are overused. You cannot reset. You cannot erase the past. You cannot start with a clean slate. And we’re not trying to start with a clean slate. We’re starting with the slate we have. And all the problems that are on that slate,” Tillerson told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. “We don’t dismiss any of them. We don’t give anyone a free pass on any of them. They’re part of the entire nature of the discussion we’re having with the Russians.”
Tillerson acknowledged that sour relations between Russia and the U.S. are “not healthy for the world” or for U.S. national security, but he was sober in his assessment of the future.
“Whether we can improve it or not remains to be seen. It’s going to take some time. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. But I think the President is committed, rightly so, and I am committed with him as well, to see if we cannot do something to put us on a better footing in our relationship with Russia,” said Tillerson.
The Secretary of State noted that addressing Russian interference in the recent U.S. election is one of the many important issues that will have to be addressed before the relationship improves. Tillerson added that he does not think “there’s any question” the Russians interfered with the electoral process, but he also pointed out that intelligence reports show it is “inconclusive as to what, if any effect, it had.”
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