- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson will promise a new era of American leadership in the international stage Wednesday, saying in his confirmation hearing that the U.S. is the only superpower capable of shaping the world for good — but cautioning the country needs to better understand how and when to flex its muscle.

In his prepared opening statement, released Tuesday night, Mr. Tillerson said maintaining global order depends on holding all nations to their international commitments: The U.S. must stand by its allies, those allies must pony up on their obligations, and adversaries must be held accountable for their promises.

“We cannot afford to ignore violations of international accords, as we have done with Iran. We cannot continue to accept empty promises like the ones China has made to pressure North Korea to reform, only to shy away from enforcement. Looking the other way when trust is broken only encourages more bad behavior. And it must end,” Mr. Tillerson says.

The oil company executive is slated to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His nomination is considered one of the most embattled of Mr. Trump’s Cabinet picks, with Democrats questioning his commitment to combatting global warming, and some Republicans worrying he’s too friendly with Russia after striking oil deals with that country’s leaders.

Mr. Tillerson, in his remarks, says Russia “poses a danger” and is a cause for alarm among many American allies. But he also said it was the U.S. retreating from the world stage that left an opening for President Vladimir Putin’s resurgent policies.

The nominee said it will take careful analysis and diplomacy to handle the ambitious nation.

“Where cooperation with Russia based on common interests is possible, such as reducing the global threat of terrorism, we ought to explore these options. Where important differences remain, we should be steadfast in defending the interests of America and her allies,” he says. “Russia must know that we will be accountable to our commitments and those of our allies, and that Russia must be held to account for its actions.”

He also said China poses both opportunities and challenges, and said the world must be “honest” about the threat from radical Islam, and said defeating the Islamic State is more important than settling simmering issues in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

“There are competing priorities in this region which must be and will be addressed, but they must not distract from our utmost mission of defeating ISIS,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Defeating ISIS must be our foremost priority in the Middle East.”

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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