Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, despite being reportedly marginalized in foreign policy-making within the White House, is now making waves with his decision to snub NATO in order to travel instead Russia.
Instead of participating in what would have been his first meeting with NATO allies on April 5-6, Tillerson will instead join President Donald Trump in Florida for an April 6-7 meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to Reuters. Later that month, on April 12, Tillerson will visit Moscow for what will most likely be a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tom Shannon, an undersecretary at the State Department appointed by President Barack Obama, will instead represent the department at the NATO event in Brussels that Tillerson will skip.
Like Trump himself, Tillerson has been harshly criticized for his close relationship with the Putin regime. Back when he was CEO of ExxonMobil he bragged about having a "very close relationship with Putin" and struck a $500 billion venture with the Russian state-subsidized oil company Rosneft. During his confirmation hearing, he notably refused to describe Putin as a war criminal, claiming "those are very, very serious charges to make, and I would want to have much more information before reaching a conclusion."
While it is unclear what Tillerson will discuss with the Putin regime in Moscow, it is quite likely that they will try to repair relations which have been damaged since the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn. Russia's state-subsidized TV station has significantly reduced its once-copious amount of pro-Trump coverage since Flynn's resignation, while a Russian spy ship was spotted off the East Coast shortly thereafter.