Amb. John Herbst on Tillerson's remarks on Russia

ABC News' Amna Nawaz and Will Reeve discuss Tillerson's remarks on Russia with Amb. John Herbst.
3:00 | 01/11/17

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Transcript for Amb. John Herbst on Tillerson's remarks on Russia
Let's go to an expert in a lot of what they talk about already joining us live from our Washington DC bureau. Is ambassador John Hurt who is now the director of the Atlantic council's Eurasia center. Important to note though after 31 or during a 31 years of service is a foreign service officer. Four at the US Department of State. Ambassador hurt you were the ambassador to Ukraine which is RD come up a number of times couldn't this morning's hearing thank you so much for being with us accomplish. So I I have to say right off the bag you have commented on the nomination of mr. teller's sin you called it a disturbing development why is that. Well at the time it seemed like. He might not have a clear eyed view of the danger presented but mr. Putin's Russia. And had you believe do you believe that's changed now that his position has at all. I said he might have ice did say he did have. That's why acts I've Mike Thomas we're not quite as stark as you just cited them but the point is what he said right now is completely reassure. He identified Russian foreign policy is a danger he described Russian aggression against Ukraine. He recommended policies in fact would be much stronger than the policies of the Obama administration. In pushing back against Russian aggression and you correct. And Russia the Russian threat more broadly in Eurasia. The best let me follow up on that real quick erect and referencing that moment at which a senator Cardin asked him how his response to Russia's annexation of Crimea would've been different. And he's that he basically respond with the military is that right what's your take on the. Yes he says that the united states sugar provided defensive military weapons to you to Ukraine united station provided intelligence. And in fact. The response to the Obama administration. Regarding that particular point was quite weak and quite Tenet. So he's suggesting that had he been in charge he would've called for much stronger response. And he made the point that if we responded more strongly the Russian seizure of Crimea. We might have dissuaded rock Russia we might have deterred Russia from beginning its military operation. In the dawn boss in eastern Ukraine. So if if that advice. Which he would have given at that time. Informs his views now that means we will see a strong policy pushing back against the great danger of Russian revisionism in Europe. And best fairest thing you for joining us. Mr. Tillerson has departed from Donald Trump's various statements on a variety of issues already in the short time that he's been speaking. At this confirmation hearing how surprising is that to you. Well we just didn't know we we still don't know what Trump's foreign policy will actually be he is not exactly a model of consistency. So I was looking at these hearings to provide some important clue. As what those policies would be globally but particularly regarding Russia Ukraine NATO Eurasia more broadly. And I have to assume that these comments have been cleared with the president elect in some form. So I think this is this is giving us of good sense that in fact mr. Trump's policies regarding the danger presented by Putin's. Russia. All will be met by strong American response. Even as we hold open the possibility of dialogue on issues where we share the same interests. In his opening statements chairman corker of the committee said that the secretary of state is essentially the principal advisor to the president. On foreign policy and of course much has been made of the fact that Rex Tillerson. Has no diplomatic experience to speak of and Donald Trump as you just mentioned does not have a stated foreign policy plan. From what you've seen so far and today's hearing how confident are you in Tillerson ability to effectively advise the president. Oh look he's obviously a man of great experience. Of a great achievement. And his experience in ExxonMobil clearly deals with only one aspect of of global issues we've had a chance to. Work overseas. In a variety of places are responsible for countries for company whose operations or global. So he is no neophyte to international relations. Obviously he's not agree with the workings of the US government so much with the workings of the State Department but he'll find. Very evil needs to help with that. And again I am quite encouraged by his opening statement by his responses to the questions he's he's been given. And I think he can be a very effective secretary of state. Ambassador her sister wraps up here when you first commented on this nomination you said that whether it's a catastrophe. Remains to be seen you sound much more cautiously optimistic today is that fair. I would say I've usually only cautious in my optimism and but what you said today gives me reason to think that perhaps it's better than that. Are obviously he is still not the president of the United States he does not make the final decisions. And we we do have the problem of the things that. Has that trumpets. As some of the things that president elect trump has. But again. If Tillis and would not put the stuff out if he didn't think it represented the views of his boss. And if in fact it does openly represented his views this is very encouraging looking at all our relationships with Russia with NATO with China. And now need to be Russian aggression in Ukraine. All right ambassador John parks at the Atlantic Council joining us from DC thank you so much for your time ambassador thank you my pleasure. Let's head back not to be hearing mr. Tillerson continues to take questions which. Just for the record. You did not differentiate that way you basically made a broad case that sanctions are not an effective tool. Now I heard your response now. But. In your opening statement you said that quote America must continue displayed commitment to personal liberty human dignity principled action in our foreign policy. And that we are only the only global superpower with the means and moral compass capable of shaping the world for good I totally agree with us. But mr. Tillis and our efforts in leading the international community for example and sanctions against our adversaries like Iran. And North Korea represent exactly that. Leadership. And moral compass. It's not about the sedan injuring American businesses it's about putting patriotism. Over prop. Diplomacy is not the same as deal making. Diplomacy requires getting other countries often to do things they may not always want to do and there isn't necessarily something to trade forward for. This is how we were able to build an extensive an effective sanctions network against Iran. Through legislation from congress and diplomatic pressure from secretaries of state across different administrations. We were able to build the framework of primary and secondary actions that ultimately crippled Iran's economy. Now you lobbied against the comprehensive Iran sanctions accountability and divestment act which I was the author. You reportedly under ExxonMobil and I say you ExxonMobil what you had to pick some over. Wanted to eliminate secondary sanctions that would prevent joint bankers. This makes census in 2003. And 2004 and 2005. You are engaged. Through a subsidiary company in businesses with countries who the United States listed. As state sponsors of terrorism including Iran. Syria and the Sudan. Countries that except for the maneuver of the or subsidiary. ExxonMobil could not have been dealing with. ExxonMobil is listed as a coalition member of USA engage. And after seek an advocacy group that lobbies against sanctions. This group also lobbied against sanctions including against Iraq. And deployed it passage of the joint comprehensive plan of action. So my question is with that as history. With. Though the work that you did in the spring of 2011. Where you over sore and ExxonMobil deal with the Kurdish regional government Iraq. After the United States government expressly did not want to see that happen faring that a deal would undermine the US policy of one Iraq. And lead the country closer to civil war. What message are you now going to be able to send to American businesses who wore intent. Are pursuing their own interests at the expense of US policies and potentials put to political stability. In foreign countries how are you gonna re calibrate your priorities. As secretary of state your shareholders are the American people and their security. And there are entrance. We're a lot in this question senator give you the rest of my turnaround with jacket respond first I've never lobbied against sanctions partially. I continue to listen company you directed did. Him to my knowledge Exxon never directly locked interest. Sanctions not to my knowledge. In terms of all the other actions the room the remission there they've been done whether there Rawle undertaken with a great deal of transparency and openness. An engagement and input to the process that's that's the beauty the American processes that. Others are invited to express their views and inform the process. But that mocked did it now if confirmed as secretary of state won't have one mission only misrepresent the interest the American people. And as upstate multiple times sanctions are important powerful tool. But but designing -- sanctions and having porn ineffective sanctions. And have a worse effect than having no sanctions at all and if they convey a weak response. So it's important in designing sanctions that is option that they're carefully crafted carefully targeted with a with an intended effect. And didn't force. And to the extent American leadership that can broaden participation in those sanctions and and you're exactly right the Iran sanctions work extraordinarily effective because. Others joined him. Thank you senator Menendez a split incredible role or nation make sure that. Sanctions are in place and has done. So let us all if you will relative to a wrong. That's not for longer in production and let records say that your time ran over to accommodate interject and I made earlier. It's my understanding I think you called me during this. That. Your concern with these sanctions that were in place relative to Iran or not that they were put in place. But that the Europeans. And put them and in a way that was different in an actual if it calls adverse. An adverse situation for US business relative to European businesses is that correct. Those with respect to the sanctioned for Russia that's correct. With that let me just own home some Arabia's questions. Understand how a nominee would. Wish to. To be careful how they answer especially one it plans to do what they say. In the event with many of those where he was asking him out war crimes. If you are able through your own independent knowledge. And working class by agencies here with and the government. To determine that the types of activities that he so well articulated took place. You would agree that those in fact would be or crops. Mister senator Johnson. And was chairman welcome mr. Tillerson. Mentioned him pretty good time minority. Tom. How unthinkable bit on sanctions as I've I've had my own urgent concerns about the effectiveness of sanctions. And the double edged sword nature of them. For example you again you you are pretty well aware of the events and the public opinion site Russia mean. I'm concerned that some. Not Weld's eyes sanctions can actually solidified. For example glamour Putin's standing within Russian news Adam is that a legitimate concern sanctions. Yes sir I think it is. In in your testimony you couple statements to said that Russia is not unpredictable which mean you know no way saying that's brushes pretty predictable. A Russian does not think like we do can you further scramble post comments. Well in term of their heard. I'm. Yeah. I. If converted he would act yeah. I can easily add them itself but it we've stopped the clock on the east manner in appearances take place at the appreciate it with that senator guns. If you were if you've got the question it was. It was explain your comments that Russia is predictable basically and that big Russians not think like we do. Expand on that. Well hidden and my experiences. Of both dealing. With Russia and representatives of Russian government and Russian entities. And it is my. That the length of time much that in Russia isn't sharper. My experience with brush with the Russians. Are that there are very calculating. Another very strategic in their thinking and they develop a plan. The eight headlines. Like not. Yeah yeah. Oh. And. Process Angeles I can maybe answer a question and impeded. It's. I've found the Russians to be very strategic and they're thinking very tactical and they generally have a burglar plan. That they've laid before them. But so in terms of want to make the statement they're not an unpredictable. If if one is able to step back and understand what their long term motivation is and you see that they're going to chart a course. And its an understanding of how are they likely to care that plan now. And wearer all of the elements of that plan federal table. And in my view. The leadership of Russia has a plane is a it is it is a geographic play. That is in front of them. And they are taking actions to implement that plan they're judging responses. And then their make him the next step in the plan based on the response in that regard. They are not unpredictable and if you if you if Russia does not receive. An adequate response to an action they will execute the next step for the players its source view more specific some rice set plan that you see they have. Or Russia. More than anything Walsh to reestablish its role in the global world war. They have a view that following the breakup of the Soviet Union. They were mistreated in some respects in the transition period. They believe that is our rightful role in the global world order because they are nuclear power. And there are there are searching as to how to establish that. And for most of the past. Twenty plus years since the demise of the Soviet Union they were not in a position. To a shark that they've spent all of these years developing the capability to do that I think that's now wall we're witnessing. Is in this arsenal their part in order to force a conversation. About what is Russia's role in the global world war. And so the steps being taken or simply to make that point. That the Russians here Russia matters and were forced to be dealt. And that is a fairly predictable. Course of action they're taking. I think the important conversation that we have had with them. Is it does Russia walls to now and forever be an adversary the United States. You want this to get worse. Or does Russia does are a different relationship. We're not likely to ever be friends think as others of note our values system church starkly different. We do not homes it's. But also know the Russian people. Because I've experts how many years. In Russia. There is scope to define it different relationship. There can bring down. The temperature. Around the conflict we have today in the east and they it is. Secretary Gates. Alluded to in his sector them to vote for Merrill marks. Dialogue is critical so that these things do not spin out of control. We need to move Russia from being an adversary always. A partner at times. And other issues were going to be adversaries. Not a lot much comments on metal China. At times charities related times John is an adversary. Russia engagement is necessary or to define what is that relationship going to be and then we will go out to shore are old plan of action. To respond to that.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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