The European Union’s director of foreign policy Federica Mogherini — considered an essential partner in U.S.-European relations — was denied information she requested in the form of a briefing from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, says a report in Foreign Policy magazine.
Sources close to Mogherini told FP that the minister is “really pissed off” that after an April meeting between Tillerson and Putin, Tillerson declined the EU’s request for a briefing ahead of an impending meeting between Mogherini and Russian officials.
“The sources told Foreign Policy that Tillerson’s office rejected Mogherini’s request for a call and instead kicked it down to a lower-level State Department official. That move infuriated her and came against the backdrop of an already strained U.S.-EU relationship under Trump, whose scandal-plagued White House is still reeling from investigations into the president’s campaign ties to the Kremlin,” said Foreign Policy’s Robbie Gramer.
Mogherini’s office made the request for a one-on-one phone briefing with Tillerson after he made a controversial visit to Moscow and met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on April 11th and 12th. Mogherini wanted to speak to Tillerson ahead of her own meeting with Lavrov in Moscow scheduled for April 24. The State Department denied her an opportunity to speak with former Exxon-Mobil CEO Tillerson.
“It really pissed her off,” one source told Foreign Policy.
“This is like a total screw-up,” another source said. “This is not the way you treat Mogherini.”
The State Department offered to let Mogherini speak to a lower-ranking official named Brian Hook. It is not clear whether Hook attended the meeting between Lavrov, Putin and Tillerson. Mogherini declined the offer.
An unnamed State Department official told Foreign Policy that scheduling was the main problem and that “the most efficient accommodation under the circumstances was available to her,” i.e., a conversation with Hook, but Mogherini felt that would be of limited value.
However, with so many State Department and other federal posts left unfilled by President Donald Trump’s feckless, scattershot leadership style, some officials said the problem might actually have been scheduling or simply a lack of available officials to approve and vet the call.
“There is a pattern here of not being able to run the logistics of sorting out meetings,” the source close to Mogherini told Gramer. “They don’t have anyone in the administration to pick these things up.”
A former U.S. official said it’s hard for Europeans to separate what’s malicious from simple incompetence with the Trump administration.
“Europeans are wondering, surely this isn’t a direct hit against us, is it? Does it highlight their understaffing, their incompetence … or is it intentional?” they said.