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By Jonah Bennett
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced Wednesday that the United States won’t mandate that other countries adopt human rights values as a precondition for a relationship.
During a speech at the Department of State, Tillerson noted that when it comes to issues like national security, relationships with other countries won’t be contingent on those countries adopting shared values like human rights. The policy has come to the forefront recently with President Donald Trump’s extended interactions with foreign leaders like Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte and overtures to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the Associated Press reports.
“In some circumstances, if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can’t achieve our national security goals,” Tillerson said. “It really does create obstacles.”
Still, those values won’t vanish. Rather, the idea behind President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy as applied to foreign affairs is that a lack of shared values in some cases won’t preclude detailed discussion and negotiation with other countries.
In March, Tillerson hinted at this new approach by lifting the Obama administration ban on the sale of F-16 fighter jets and various other weapons to Bahrain. Many in the human rights community, like Human Rights Watch, have accused the country of major abuses. The sale of the F-16 fighter jets alone is worth $2.8 billion.
Moreover, Tillerson said America has not paid close attention to which alliances in the post-Cold War era actually serve U.S. interests, and part of America First is reassessing those alliances.
“These are really important alliances, but we’ve got to bring them back into balance,” Tillerson said.
As part of executing the America First framework, Tillerson is bringing major internal changes to the State Department, though in the speech he did not announce any details about the 2,300 jobs he intends to cut.
Currently, the State Department employs 75,000 people around the world.
“I can promise you that when this is all done, you’re going to have a much more satisfying, fulfilling career,” Tillerson said. “Because you’re going to feel better about what you’re doing.”