Repeated statements by Western politicians about Russia’s involvement in war crimes in Syria have suddenly shifted. The U.S. president-elect’s pick for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, refused to name Russia’s actions in Syria as war crimes when questioned on January 11 at a Senate hearing into his nomination.
Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez asked Tillerson several times during the hearings to share his opinion on war crimes in Syria. He dodged.
Tillerson said that he wouldn’t want to rely solely upon what has been reported in the public realm. He said he can’t support serious allegations against Russia without having a lot of sufficient information before to make such a conclusion.
It was clear that it was difficult and inconvenient for the candidate to answer such questions. Apparently the U.S. has no direct evidence of Russia being guilty of war crimes which Tillerson would likely be informed.
Regardless of Syria, the main task of the future head of the U.S. State Department is preparing for his appointment to office. That means not only correctly answering questions but also developing the ability to dodge a question. This will undoubtedly be important and useful for Tillerson if he wants to gain the public support for U.S. foreign policy. All this may explain the difficulties in answering some of the questions at the Senate hearings.
Meanwhile, the deputy spokesperson for the States Department, Mark Toner also had to answer questions like that during a regular press conference on January 12. Once again, the topic of accusations against Russia was raised.
Mark Toner said the Obama’s administration was not ready to accuse Russia of conducting war crimes in Syria. Being an experienced spokesperson, however, he hastened to point out that the U.S. condemns Russia’s actions in Syria, especially in Aleppo.
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