Pro-Russian President Donald Trump directs Secretary of State to skip NATO summit, travel to Moscow instead

News that Rex Tillerson would skip an upcoming NATO foreign ministers meeting and travel instead to Moscow is the kind of news that produces a “What the f…?” reaction, almost too grotesque and unbelievable to be true.

But it is true.

To be sure, Vladimir Putin has been lying low, not engaging in any particularly egregious behavior (except in the eastern Ukraine), but apparently he and Donald Trump have concluded it is now safe to proceed with pro-Russian actions.

This is the second big pay-off to Putin since Trump became president on January 20, 2017. The first was an easing of U.S. sanctions against Russia to enable the Russian FSB (successor to the KGB) to resume collecting licensing fees for imported cell phones and other electronic equipment. Trump administration officials justified this as a mere “technical adjustment”, but in fact it was a favor to the very agency that was involved in intervention in the 2016 campaign and elections in the U.S., and also the agency alleged to have compromising information on Trump (kompromat) as alleged in the Christopher Steele “golden showers” dossier.

See “’Technical adjustment’ on Russian sanctions may involve more than meets the eye,” The Trenchant Observer, February 2, 2017.

Beyond the salacious details about Trump allegedly cavorting with Russian prostitutes (which Putin boasts are “the best in the world”), the Steele dossier alleges that Putin himself ordered the Russian intervention in the U.S. elections, and that there was active collusion and cooperation between the Trump campaign and individuals around Trump and Russian officials.

While news media have generally reported that the allegations in the Steele dossier can not be corroborated, in point of fact a number of details in the dossier–though not the details  of the “golden showers” episoode–have been confirmed by intelligence officials speaking on background.


(1) “More on the “Golden Showers” dossier prepared by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele: Sources,” The Trenchant Observer, March 7, 2017.

(2) Andy Towle, “Rachel Maddow: Details of Trump-Russia Dossier Keep Checking Out as its Author Reemerges from Hiding,” Towleroad,
March 8, 2017 (8:15am).

(3) Rachel Maddow, “More Pieces Of Donald Trump Russia Dossier, ” MSNBC, Marchy 7, 2017,, found on YouTube here.

(4) “The Trail of Death Since Election Day,” Facts Do Matter, February 24, 2017.

Reflect for a moment on the message Trump is sending to our NATO allies, Russia and other countries.

Consider also the message Trump is sending to voters in countries like France who will participate in elections such as the French presidential election, where Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National, with Russian financial support, is running on a pro-Russian platform.

Days after meeting with Angela Merkel of Germany, now the embodiment of the liberal military and political order based on the United Nations Charter, and for many the current leader of the Free World, Trump is doubling down by snubbling NATO and giving Russia a great propaganda victory.


Head of the US State Department Rex Tillerson will come to Russia next month. Aaccording to some data, the visit is planned for April, 12. In Moscow he will have a meeting with head of the Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov.

Before the trip Tillerson had decided not to visit a meeting with foreign ministers of the NATO member-states, which is to take place in Brussels on April, 5-6. Instead, he will dispatch his Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon.

–Pravda (Englis), March 21, 2017.

What Trump is doing is anathema to foreign policy experts who understand the importance of not bowing to a dictator who engineered an unprecedented attempt to throw the 2016 presidential election to Trump, and to also influence the Congressional elections, and who has invaded and currently occupies part of the Ukraine.

The greatest irony is that Trump’s actions come at the same time that the FBI director, James Comey, has confirmed in Congressional testimony that Trump and his campaign are the cuurent subjects of a counter-espionage investigation into cooperation and collusion with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.


Sonam Sheth, “Top Democrat lays out mountain of evidence he says ties Trump campaign to Russia,” Business Insider, March 20, 2017 (3:01 PM).

As for Tillerson, we should recall how he strained credulity by testifying in his Senate confirmation hearings that he had not discussed Russia with Trump.

See “John Nichols, Rex Tillerson’s Jaw-Dropping Testimony Just Completely Disqualified Him,” The Nation, January 12, 2017.

Perhaps the best that can be said for him is that he is either oblivious or indifferent to the symbolism and impact of his actions toward NATO and Russia. Otherwise, he looks like a willing tool of the Trojan horse candidate who has become the pro-Russian president of the United States.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.