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U.S. Official: Tillerson To Urge NATO Pressure Over Russian 'Aggression' Against Neighbors

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- A senior U.S. official says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will discuss at an upcoming NATO foreign ministers meeting the need for the alliance to pressure Russia over "aggression against its neighbors" and fulfill its commitments to end the war in Ukraine.

The senior State Department official made the comments in a phone call with reporters on March 28, just days ahead of Tillerson's trip to Brussels for a rescheduled meeting of the alliance's foreign ministers.

At the March 31 meeting, Tillerson will be "consulting with allies about our shared commitment to improve the security situation in eastern Ukraine and the need for NATO to continue to push Russia to end its aggression against its neighbors, and to fulfill the Minsk commitments with regard to Ukraine," said the official, who spoke under ground rules that he or she would not be named.

Tillerson had planned to skip the meeting, originally scheduled for April 5-6. That triggered concerns among some European officials about the U.S. administration's commitment to NATO under President Donald Trump.

But the meeting was rescheduled for March 31 to give Tillerson his first chance to meet with his counterparts from the other 27 alliance members.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump rattled some NATO allies by characterizing the alliance as "obsolete." He also suggested that Washington might not come to the aid of other NATO members who do not meet defense spending requirements in the event of an attack by Russia.

The State Department official said Tillerson was going to push allies "to renew their commitment through increased resources for NATO's defense spending."

Trump's administration has been pressing NATO members to spend 2 percent of their GDP each year on defense by 2024.

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