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Tillerson’s Firing Likely Unrelated to Russia

(Reuters photo: Jonathan Ernst)

Popularly on social media, and even among a few foreign-policy mandarins, I’ve seen the theory floated that Donald Trump may have fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson because Tillerson suggested Russia was behind the murder of an ex spy in the United Kingdom.

This seems far-fetched. The relationship between Tillerson and Trump has been strained almost from the beginning. And rumors of Tillerson’s imminent ouster have been around since late last year. If anything, Trump’s preferred replacement, Mike Pompeo is a notable Russia hawk. And Pompeo received loads of endorsements from other Russia hawks from Lindsey Graham to Bill Kristol.

Relatedly, the Mueller investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has somehow encouraged a popular belief among Trump’s opponents that the president is conducting a pro-Russia foreign policy. I see this expressed often in social media. It’s bunk. In real life, the U.S. is now sending lethal aid to Ukraine, recently conducted an operation in Syria that killed many Russian nationals, and has been expelling Russian diplomatic personnel in an ongoing tit-for-tat with the Kremlin. Contacts between the U.S. military and Russian military are generally very good and have avoided real disasters in Syria, but at a diplomatic level, Russia is provocative and catty with the United States, and relations are almost as low as I can remember them.

My own theory is that Trump feels himself settling into the job of president and empowered to have a staff to his liking.

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