Oleg Tsarev on Tillerson’s Trip to Moscow

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On Wednesday evening on April 12th in the Kremlin the meeting between the head of our State Vladimir Putin, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took place.

Many of my friends – Russian politicians – put excessive hopes on the already in-motion visit of the Secretary of State of the United States Mr Tillerson. Undoubtedly, the first official visit to Russia of the representative of the team of the new US President can’t not but draw attention. But, it is important not to be under delusions.

The new President of the United States came to power with a small team. The number of the people allowed to the President’s body is rather limited, and the Secretary of State Tillerson isn’t included in their number. It is the senior adviser to the President and, in combination, his son-in-law and the husband of his daughter Ivanka Jared Kushner, and another senior assistant to the President – the publicist, journalist, and the main strategist Steve Bannon who enters into the near circle in which all decisions are made, including on foreign policy questions.

Those who understood the subtleties of American politics build connections through the aforementioned comrades. Igor Kolomoisky, who understood from his bitter experience how the support, or its absence, of the United States is important, states in his circle that he, allegedly, built a relationship with the new authorities through Jared Kushner. And that, allegedly, their relationship is so good that he, with his partner in business, was invited personally by Donald Trump to the inauguration via a personal call, while most Ukrainian politicians were compelled to buy tickets with money. How truthful this is – I don’t know.

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Recently in Ukraine it became fashionable to attribute oneself to especially good relations with the new US administration. The leader in this sense is Mikhail Saakashvili, who says that he has been acquainted with Trump since the 90’s, and supposedly that’s why special financing from the US will be allocated to his new political project, and, allegedly, a sum of up to five hundred million dollars is being discussed. Truthful or not, according to my acquaintances who have contacts with the US Embassies both in Russia and Ukraine, ambassadorial employees complain that orders and directives stopped to arrive from the State Department, and that’s why there is no position on many questions. Employees are obliged to find out the position of the White House from the media. In the absence of instructions, the employees of the department pass their time on social networks and in conversations about the forthcoming reductions and cuts in both the budget of the department and programs, which were financed up to now by the State Department.

It is possible to say that Rex Tillerson was implanted into State Department practically alone. Without his team. Generally the department is formed by the employees who remained from Obama. The problems that face Rex Tillerson can be attributed not only to the sparse contact between him and Trump. The matter is that, in addition to everything else, it is the chief of staff of his department Margaret Peterlin who creates specific problems for Rex. The beautiful blonde has more dense contact with the White House and, in fact, created internal opposition to Rex Tillerson inside the department, which also lowers the overall performance of the department.

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Summing up the result, it is possible to say that during Trump’s presidency a sharp decrease in the role of the State Department is expected. To say that the role of the State Department will be lowered only to the organization of hospitality events would be an exaggeration, but the fact that, judging by all of this, the White House will pursue its policy also through Trump’s assistants is obvious.

Taking into account what was previously said, I didn’t expect Tillerson to be allocated special powers for a trip to Moscow. Most likely, this is a trial visit. It is unlikely that Tillerson is faced with some tasks. I think that the result of this meeting will be the meeting itself. In other words, one shouldn’t expect from this visit some break or any special results. There won’t be a miracle, and there will not be any gifts. The Russians will be forced to defend their interests in a heavy confrontation. However, there is no need to be despondent. There are pluses in it: when you are surrounded by enemies in all directions, it is possible to stage an offensive in any direction.

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