House and Senate committees are investigating Russia's meddling and potential links to the Trump campaign
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 13, 2017. photo: AP/Jacquelyn Martin, photo: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
13 of June 2017 12:20:08
WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the U.S. relationship with Russia is at an all-time low and deteriorating further, yet he cautioned against taking steps that might close off promising avenues of communication between the two former Cold War foes.Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson stopped short of registering his opposition to a new package of Russia sanctions the GOP-led Senate is considering in retaliation for Moscow's meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression in other parts of the world, including Syria and Ukraine.Tillerson told the committee that he's still reviewing the new sanctions that Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed upon late Monday after lengthy negotiations. He said that it's important that President Donald Trump have the flexibility "to turn the heat up" on Russia if necessary. He also said he doesn't want promising channels of communication preemptively shut down.[caption id="attachment_62597" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Russian President Vladimir Putin walks along the Cathedral Square of the Kremlin, to take part in a holiday reception in Moscow, Monday, June 12, 2017. Photo: Sputnik, Kremlin Pool/Alexei Druzhinin, via AP[/caption]Talks with Moscow on stabilizing war-ravaged Syria are progressing but it's too early to tell if the discussions will bear fruit, Tillerson said.Top lawmakers on two Senate committees — Banking and Foreign Relations — announced the sanctions deal amid the firestorm over Russia's meddling in the presidential election and investigations into Moscow's possible collusion with members of President Donald Trump's campaign.The plan calls for strengthening current sanctions and imposing new ones on corrupt Russian actors, those involved in human rights abuses and those supplying weapons to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The package also would require a congressional review if a president attempts to ease or end current penalties.Penalties also would be slapped on those responsible for malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government.