Oh yeah, and there's also that thing about how he's Putin's buddy.

The State Department would just like everyone to know that Rex Tillerson still loves NATO like anything, and he doesn't mean any insult by skipping out on a meeting of NATO member countries' foreign ministers early next month. It was just one of those scheduling glitches that happen when you're a busy secretary of State with a hollowed-out department, OK? And it would definitely be wrong to read anything into the tiny detail that, a few weeks after he blows off the NATO meeting, he's headed off to Moscow. If it helps any, the White House announced Tuesday night that President Trump will attend another NATO meeting in May, so everybody just stop it with the talk about the Trump administration preferring Russia over our European allies. Who are big deadbeats that owe bigly for their own defense, by the way.

Tillerson can't go to the April 5-6 NATO meeting in Brussels, you see, because he wants to be in Florida for Trump's visit with Chinese President Xi Jinping set for April 6-7 at Mar-a-Lago, where there will be important golf diplomacy to do. And then sometime later in April, there's the Russia trip, and Tillerson wouldn't want to insult our good friends the Russians by hanging out with our allies in Europe, now would he?

Besides, it's no big, since Tillerson will see a lot of the same foreign ministers this week in Washington for a series of meetings about fighting ISIS, which is almost as good, isn't it? Except for the part where it won't actually be a NATO meeting. But we're still really good friends, and Tillerson has promised to sign Germany and France's yearbooks, even. That meeting in Washington isn't especially reassuring to people who follow NATO closely, though:

“Meeting with [foreign ministers] at the Anti-ISIS coalition gathering or a G-20 does nothing for NATO, an organization that is earnestly seeking U.S. guidance on how to adjust its agenda,” a Republican foreign policy expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told [Foreign Policy].

Some people -- haters, probably -- think Tillerson's skipping the NATO summit and then trotting off to Moscow may be sending an unfortunate message. In a written statement, Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Tillerson's absence from the NATO meeting

a grave error that will shake the confidence of America's most important alliance and feed the concern that this Administration is simply too cozy with Vladimir Putin [...]

I cannot fathom why the Administration would pursue this course except to signal a change in American foreign policy that draws our country away from western democracy's most important institutions and aligns the United States more closely with the autocratic regime in the Kremlin[.]

He's probably just jealous that Rex Tillerson gets to go to Mar-a-Lago and Moscow in the same month, with some naps in between.

Reuters also got some hot gossip from a "former U.S. official" who thought the affair sends the wrong message.

"It feeds this narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsie with Russia," said the former U.S. official on condition of anonymity.

"You don’t want to do your early business with the world's great autocrats. You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of the transatlantic group of great democracies," he added.

We bet it's John Kerry. Or maybe Colin Powell. Or Bill Clinton. Or some other former U.S. official. They're all out to get Trump, you know. And sure, maybe blowing off NATO might look bad, especially after all the times Donald Trump slagged the alliance during the campaign and said we might not defend NATO members who Trump thought hadn't paid enough dues (which isn't even how NATO works, but whatever). Then there's the still-unverified "Steele Dossier," which claimed that, as part of its collusion with the Russian cyber-attack on the 2016 election, the Trump campaign agreed to complain a lot about our NATO partners instead of Russia's annexation of Crimea. But that last one is still not verified, so we shouldn't mention it, no no no.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who had the great timing to be testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on "America’s role in the world" Tuesday, said Tillerson's absence from the NATO meetup sends "a most unfortunate signal," but added that it was probably more of a SNAFU than a snub:

I would blame it on schedulers. I do think that is part of the problem. He will have met with a lot of ministers in other venues, but given the discussion that’s going on about NATO, I think it’s an unfortunate scheduling problem.

Jim Townsend, a former Pentagon official for NATO policy under Barack Obama, said the NATO screwup was probably the result of scheduling mixups in a deeply understaffed State Department (Trump has yet to appoint a deputy Secretary of State, two months after taking office), combined with the Trump administration's lack of interest in NATO except as a foil to complain about.

But don't worry, Europe! Now that the administration's getting some flak over Tillerson's blowing you off to party with China and Russia, even TrumpWorld is slowly beginning to act like they care about you and want to be in your selfies, so everyone is now busy making nice and talking about how important the alliance is -- NATO and USA BFFs you bet! The State Department says it's working really hard to find alternate dates for a NATO meeting, and President Trump is totally going to go to that meeting in May, so there's all sorts of "strong support" for NATO, that's for sure, no matter what Trump Tweets about NATO members needing to spend more on defense before he'll really love them.

Everything's fine with NATO. And when the group photo is taken, those smiles won't look the least bit forced, not one bit. Tillerson will want to be really careful when he finally does attend a NATO summit -- we bet they short-sheet his bed, then sneak into his room while he's sleeping and dip his hand into a glass of water so he'll pee.

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[Reuters / WaPo / Foreign Policy / The Hill / Guardian / WaPo]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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