BRUSSELS / BERLIN (Reuters) – On the eve of his trip to Europe, Rex Tillerson delivered a speech last week that European allies had waited months to listen: a "steely" promise of US support for his allies oldest
The relief in the European capitals lasted just one day, according to information a plan of the White House emerged to overthrow the Secretary of State of the United States, plunging US friends again in the confusion over the foreign policy of President Donald Trump.
The uncertainty is particularly acute given Washington's leading role in the crises in North Korea and Syria.
"Just when Tillerson arrives in Brussels to give a public statement of support that the EU and NATO have wanted from the beginning, it seems he has no mandate, that the guillotine is on his head," said an official of the EU involved in diplomacy with White House officials.
"Leave Europe as doubtful as it was before about Trump".
U.S. Officials said on Thursday that the White House had a plan for the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, to replace Tillerson, but Trump said Friday he would not leave and the secretary of state said on Saturday that the reports were not true .
European leaders long for stability in US foreign policy UU They are concerned about Trump's rhetoric "America first" and the inconsistent statements about NATO and the European Union.
In addition, Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement and his decision not to certify Iran's compliance with a nuclear agreement undermine European priorities.
"The chaos in the administration does not help in the current geopolitical climate," said a senior French diplomat.
At the beginning of last week, Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil, delivered a long speech in support of Europe in Washington, more like the traditional US policy. UU
"The United States remains committed to our enduring relationship with Europe, our security commitments with European allies are armored," he told a group of experts.
He said he would convey that message to the European Union and NATO. He is scheduled to visit Brussels on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna on Thursday and Paris on Friday.
The question is whether European officials believe him, given the tensions during his April visit to Europe, when Reuters reported that Tillerson initially planned to skip a NATO meeting in Brussels and then only attended under pressure from allies.
"If there were expectations that Tillerson could become a counterweight to Trump, someone who could convey messages from partners and exert a moderating influence on US foreign policy, those expectations have been disappointing," said Niels Annen, policy spokesperson. exterior of The Social Democrats of Germany in the parliament.
"Under your supervision, the Department of State has become a non-actor actor."
Despite Tillerson's promise to reform the US foreign service UU., The European governments do not see how he has tried to reduce costs in the State Department, with the main diplomatic posts vacant almost one year after the administration.
The French have toured Tillerson to establish contacts with United States Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, White House National Security Adviser HR McMaster and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, while the maximum EU diplomat Federica Mogherini has gone directly to Vice President Mike Pence.
Berlin has focused on Capitol Hill, as well as Kelly, McMaster and Mattis.
However, it is not clear if that access translates into a direct impact on Trump's foreign policy, diplomats said.
"GREATER DOSE OF TROMP"
There is hope that if Pompeo is named he could rejuvenate the State Department after Tillerson, which is seen as ineffective, diplomats said. Pompeo is an unknown quantity in Europe but it is closer to Trump.
"We may be seeing a higher dose of Trump in the State Department," if Pompeo got the job, said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, head of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund.
A European diplomat said Tillerson was in a difficult position from the start because the Trump administration was hostile to Iran and brought a team of generals who took a hard line, "so he never left much room for Tillerson."
In addition, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has badumed a leadership role in formulating policies on peace in the Middle East.
But Europeans see Trump as a blizzard of contradictory signals. At a NATO summit in Brussels in May, the president publicly admonished European leaders for their low defense spending and threatened to reduce support, only to announce a jump in US military spending. UU In Europe months later.
Things can only become more unpredictable, diplomats say.
European diplomats consider Tillerson and Mattis as instruments to prevent Trump from making hasty decisions about North Korea and its nuclear program, given the administration's comments about "completely destroying" the country.
Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris, Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels, Linda Sieg and Noburiro Kubo in Tokyo; Edition by Matthew Mpoke Bigg