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Gates Defends Tillerson on Putin Ties — ‘Being Friendly Doesn’t Make You Friends’

Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin “being friendly doesn’t make you friends.”

Gates said, “He is familiar with countries from Indonesia to Latin America to the Middle East and Russia. It seems to me having somebody who is secretary of state who has dealt with a lot of these leaders, who knows them, knows how they negotiate, knows how they think is a huge assess for the United States. As I have said, I think the second he raises his hand to take that oath, his only goal will be to do what’s in the best interests of the United States.”

He added, ‘Clearly, the CEO of any U.S. company that does business around the world is going to want to be on friendly relationships with the leaders and governments of those countries where they do business, but being friendly doesn’t make you friends. After all, if you wanted to show pictures, I hoisted a glass of vodka more than one time with the head of the KGB. And it looked like it was friendly if you had taken a photograph of it. I can guarantee you, we weren’t friends. We were adversaries. But in the course of doing business, you at least maintain the pleasantries. You can’t be at each others throats 24/7. So I think mistaking a picture of something lifting a champagne glass or shaking hands with somebody, confusing that with being friends or being closely associated other than in a business sense, I think is a mistake. I think it’s a false narrative.”

(h/t The Hill)

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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