Rex Tillerson will go to Russia but skip NATO meeting next month

The White House appears to be trying to tackle the controversy head on by dispatching Tillerson, who conducted oil negotiations with Russia when he headed ExxonMobil and was awarded a presidential medal of friendship by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Often, U.S. and Russian diplomats meet in a third country, so they do not convey the impression either is catering to the other.

Tillerson has been notably absent from several meetings with foreign leaders, causing some critics to question whether he has much influence over foreign policy in the Trump administration. His visit to Moscow, which was first reported by Reuters, could help dispel that impression.

State Department officials would not confirm that the reason Tillerson will skip the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on April 5 and 6 is because he will be attending President Trump’s meeting with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Tillerson met with Xi last weekend in Beijing to discuss the growing threat from North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.