Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) may be from the same party as the new administration, but that didn’t stop him from directing a serious line of questioning at President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State.
“Let me ask you,” Rubio said during the confirmation hearing for former Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson, citing Russia’s actions in Syria and Chechnya. “Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?”
“I would not use that term,” Tillerson said.
Rubio was clearly displeased with Tillerson’s answer and began to describe documented terms of Russian crimes in Syria and Chechnya.
Let me describe the situation in Aleppo. [Putin] has directed his military to conduct a devastating campaign. He’s targeted schools, markets — not just assisted the Syrians in doing it — his military targeted schools, markets, other civilian infrastructure resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians. This is not the first time Mr. Putin was involved in campaigns of this kind. Back when he was just appointed prime minister before he was elected… there was a series of bombings and they blamed it on the Chechans…Mr. Putin ordered the air force to bomb their capital with scud missiles to hit hospitals, the main market…137 people died instantly…He used battlefield weapons against civilians…an estimated 300,000 civilians were killed and the city was destroyed.
There was a credible body of reporting, open source and other, that all the bombings were part of a black flag operation on the part of the FSB [Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation] and if you want to know the motivation, here it is. Putin’s approval ratings before the attacks were 31 percent. By mid August of that year it was 78 percent in just three months. Based on this information and what’s publicly in the record about what happened in Aleppo and the Russian military, you are not prepared to say Vladimir Putin and his military violated the rules of war and conducted war crimes in Aleppo?
And despite the clear picture, Tillerson’s response was still ambiguous.
“Those are very serious charges to make,” Tillerson said. “I would want to have much more information before reaching a conclusion.”
In Syria, the Russian air force has targeted hospitals as a strategy of war, resulting in the death of thousands of civilians. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for Russia to be investigated for war crimes last October.
Tillerson’s failure to condemn Putin’s directives in the Middle Eastern nation clearly wasn’t acceptable to Rubio.