Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Makes His First Official Trip Abroad, Meets With Russian Counterpart

Travelin’ man. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is finally getting a taste of international diplomacy this week, in Bonn, Germany, as he makes his first official trip abroad to meet with various foreign ministers from the G20 countries. Tillerson’s travels come at at time when European allies are unsure, anxious, and wary of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, including his signaling, at times, for closer ties with Russia. And speaking of Russia, Tillerson got to introduce himself to their foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, which seemed like it might be a little awkward.

And apparently, it kind of was. Bloomberg reports that the two sat down, and Lavrov delivered his opening remarks, congratulating Tillerson on his job. But when it came time for Tillerson’s turn to speak, State Department aides forced American and Russian journalists to leave the room — something that Lavrov appeared to object to, asking: “Why did you shush them out?”

After the meeting, Tillerson — in his first public statement since assuming the the position of top diplomat earlier this month — gave a quick recap of his meeting with his Russian counterpart. “We discussed a range of issues of mutual concern,” Tillerson said, adding that “the United States will consider working with Russia when we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people.”

“Where we do not see eye to eye the United States will stand up for the interest and values of America and our allies,” he continued. “As we search for new common ground, we expect Russia to honor its commitment to the Minsk agreements and work to de-escalate the violence in the Ukraine.”

Tillerson did not take any questions from reporters. Lavrov, who addressed reporters separately, said the two diplomats did not discuss sanctions on Russia.

Tillerson Goes Abroad, Meets With Russian Counterpart