Tillerson had no reason to provoke a reflexively anti-Russian bunch
In his Senate confirmation hearing Tillerson said Russia was a danger, it had acted agressively against America’s national interests, and that sanctions against it should be kept in place.
However he also qualified every single one of these statements.
He said that Russia was a danger citing Crimea and Ukraine but added it was Obama’s failure to take control of the situation that made it so. He said Russia is going to be an adversary on some things but added it must be made a partner in others. He said Russia sanctions should be kept in place for now.
In the end the most rabid Russia bashers had little to latch onto. Vox is already insuniating Tillerson „blew it on Russia“ and The Washington Post is complaining Tillerson’s has a „Russia First policy“.
In the end, albeit they could be worrying signs, too much should not be read into Tillersons statements to the Senate. He has nothing to gain from needlessly provoking a reflexively anti-Russian club that still needs to vote to confirm him.
In this context what the would-be diplomat said to appease a crowd of Russia-bashers who for now still have power over him is less meaningful than where he drew the line. Aside from flatly refusing to join in in the demonization of Putin, he told the Senate that Moscow can and should be engaged with.
Sadly, nowadays that’s an act of great courage in Washington DC.