US Will No Longer Insist Nations Adopt America’s Values & Rights
2300 State Department employees will be sacked on overhall
Translating “America First” into diplomatic policy, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Wednesday declared the United States would no longer condition its foreign relationships on countries adopting US values like human rights.
He spoke to State Department officials and employees keen for answers about changing priorities and a sweeping overhaul.
Secretary Tillerson did not provide employees any details about the 2,300 jobs he plans to eliminate or how his proposed cut of roughly a quarter of the State Department budget might affect operations. Acknowledging widespread unease about the forthcoming changes, he pledged that diplomats would emerge from the agency’s changes with “a much more satisfying, fulfilling career.”
Over the last 20 years plus Washington had “lost track” of whether post-Cold War alliances were still serving US interests.
“These are really important alliances, but we’ve got to bring them back into balance,” Secretary Tillerson told the department in a State Department auditorium.
The Secretary of State distinguished between US “values” and “policies” that he said would drive his strategy. Policies can and must change, while the challenge for diplomats is identifying how to best represent US values. For America’s national security, policies will not be contingent on values.
Rights groups and lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns about The Trump Administration de-emphasizing human rights, pointing to President Trump’s warm interactions with leaders of nations like the Philippines and Egypt, which have experience democratic backsliding in recent years.
Secretary Tillerson’s remarks reinforced the notion that under President Trump, the US is willing to make deals and cooperate closely with governments failing to improve their rights records.
Secretary Tillerson took diplomats on a rhetorical tour of global hot spots, laying out the various elements of his diplomatic efforts to date:
- On Russia, he said “there’s almost no trust” between the world’s greatest nuclear powers, but that the administration was trying to rebuild trust by looking at one issue at a time. First up is Syria, as Washington and Moscow see if they can get a cease-fire that can hold.
- On Mexico and Canada are “ready to engage in a good-faith effort” to update their trade relationships with America, alluding to President Trump’s insistence that the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) be renegotiated or canceled. He said ties with both are not “as rocky as it looks sometimes.”
- On Asia, he said the US has prepared new sanctions on North Korea. He said the US will take action against countries failing to fully implement existing United Nations penalties on doing business with Pyongyang. He said the administration is taking a new look at relations with China and next month would hold the 1st session of a diplomatic and security dialogue with senior Chinese officials.
Secretary Tillerson said there was “nothing easy” about what he is trying to do, conceding that the overhaul would present major disruptions for diplomats and their families who serve in posts worldwide.
He asked employees to provide input to help shape the agency’s future direction. The State Department employs about 75,000 people globally.
“I can promise you that when this is all done, you’re going to have a much more satisfying, fulfilling career,” he said. “Because you’re going to feel better about what you are doing.”