On Monday, Rex Tillerson called out, in no uncertain terms, Russia’s probable poisoning of ex-Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Britain last week with a military-grade nerve agent. The nerve agent, Novichok was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s. The very next day, and only a few hours later, Donald Trump abruptly fired Tillerson after he returned from a weeklong trip to Africa. Coincidence?
Skripal and his daughter are in critical condition a week after being found unconscious on March 4. The police officer who was one of the first on the scene is in serious condition as well due to exposure to the nerve agent.
“It’s almost beyond comprehension that a state, an organized state, would do something like that,” said Tillerson.
“A nonstate actor, I could understand. A state actor — I cannot understand why anyone would take such an action,” he said.
Tillerson said the poisoning of the Russia spy “clearly came from Russia” and “certainly will trigger a response,” but was the response his own firing by Trump?
Tillerson had indicated that the response he was looking for was more along the lines of a mutual defense response with Britain, as one of America’s closest NATO allies.
Tillerson’s comment mirrored British Prime Minister Theresa May, who also said it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible for the poisoning of the onetime double agent for Britain. May gave the Russians a deadline of midnight on Tuesday to give their explanation.
Tillerson qualified the comments on the trip back from Africa, saying he wasn’t sure if the poisoning “came from Russia with the Russian government’s knowledge.”
Trump indicated he would talk to the Prime Minister and decide how to respond if the facts were agreed upon:
“As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be,” Trump said.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded that Russia was “not to blame” and said Russia wouldn’t cooperate unless Britain allowed them to test the nerve agent, but Britain hasn’t agreed to the demand.
The Hill reported that Russian officials dismissed Britain’s allegations as “provocation” and “nonsense.”
Vladimir Putin tried to shrug off questions about the poisoning from the BBC on Tuesday morning:
“Look, we are dealing with agriculture here … and you ask me about some tragedies. Get to the bottom of things there first, then we’ll talk about this.”
Tillerson, who once won Russia’s highest honor of the “Order of Friendship” for his deals with the Russian state-owned oil company, Rosneft, said he was now “extremely concerned” about relations with Russia.
NBC News reported that Tillerson has been increasingly concerned with Russia’s aggressive actions:
[Tillerson] spent most of the first year of the Trump administration trying to solve problems and narrow differences with the Kremlin. He said after a year of trying, “we didn’t get very far.”
“Instead, what we’ve seen is a pivot on their part to be more aggressive,” Tillerson added.
The news about the dismissive Russian Foreign Minister recalls his past dismissive remarks about the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Foreign Minister Lavrov famously met with Trump in the Oval Office in May 2017, shortly after Trump fired FBI Director Comey. The strange meeting was revealed by photos from Russia’s state news agency, and U.S. journalists were barred from entering the meeting. Later, it was revealed the Trump had leaked classified intelligence to Lavrov and the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
Lavrov dismissed questions if the firing of Comey had “cast a shadow” over his meeting with Tillerson at the State Department.
“Was he fired?” he sarcastically asked. “You are kidding. You are kidding.”
It was revealed later that Trump told Lavrov that then-Director Comey was “a real nut job,” and that the reason for his firing was to take pressure off the Russia investigations.
“I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off,” said Trump.
Now Trump has fired Rex Tillerson, and the timing similarly points to the nefarious actions of Russians and those surrounding Trump who would dare call them out.
For more, see the video from the Al Jazeera and the BBC below:
Featured image: Vladimir Putin and Rex Tillerson with President Trump Meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov via Wikimedia Commons