Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has embarked on his first official trip to Bonn, Germany for the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Summit where he will dive into diplomacy with a series of group sessions and one-on-one meetings.
As President Trump has repeatedly cast his administration as one that will ring in a new era for U.S.-Russian relations, all eyes will be watching as Tillerson meets with with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first time.
In meeting with Lavrov, Tillerson will advocate for pragmatic and constructive cooperation where interests overlap, according to senior State Department officials. Countering ISIS and terrorism are possible avenues for cooperation.
It is too early to talk about lifting sanctions, say the State officials, so seeking solidarity on these areas of agreement is crucial. Last month, Lavrov acknowledged that he shares Trump’s position of “re-establishing normal relations” with Russia and that he wishes to move away from the “difficult” relations with Russia under President Obama.
Also on Wednesday, Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford will meet his Russian counterpart, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Gen. Valery Gerasimov. This is the first time the two have met since the US and Russia terminated military cooperation in 2014 due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
“The military leaders will discuss a variety of issues, including the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations and the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crises,” the Office of the Joint Chiefs said in a statement.
Tillerson will also work to forge relationships with the 20 other foreign leaders in Bonn, where he will have bilateral discussions with China, Turkey, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and the UK. He will also dive into smaller group meetings, where he is expected to have open ears as he familiarizes himself in the ongoing international conflicts that have now fallen under his purview as top US diplomat.
He will sync up with partners, State Department Officials said, as they discuss the current state of Yemen, the ongoing crisis in Syria and how to continue cooperating with African countries. The G-20 meeting on Syria will not include Russia.
The G-20 Leaders’ Summit started at the time of the financial crisis in 2008 and its focus has since shifted from economic crisis to prevention of such crises. The stated aim is to do this through strengthening global economic order, making growth more inclusive and giving attention to health, energy security and efficiency.