January 10, 2017

CNAS Briefing: Key Questions for the Tillerson Confirmation Hearing

Washington, January 10 – As Rex Tillerson is set to face a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be the next secretary of state, experts from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) have prepared a series of questions they would like the members of the committee to ask during the hearing. The full list of questions is available below:

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

  • Since 1967, successive American administrations have argued that a negotiated two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians with both sides living side-by-side in peace and security is the best pathway forward. However, President-elect Trump has appointed an American ambassador to Israel who supports settlements and has called the two-state solution into question. Do you believe that supporting the two-state solution should still be American policy? Will the United States walk away from the two-state solution under the Trump administration? – CNAS Middle East Security Program Director Ilan Goldenberg


  • The use of sanctions has been on the rise to address national security concerns including Russia’s territorial aggression and Iran’s nuclear program. Cooperation and coordination with U.S. allies on the use of sanctions has been indispensable. Yet these allies have also voiced concerns regarding the overreach of U.S. sanctions, particularly in the case of secondary sanctions. If Washington’s relationship with Moscow warms in the new Trump administration and Mr. Trump pursues his pledge to dismantle the Iran nuclear agreement, there may be a divergence between the United States and Europe on these sanctions regimes. Please comment on how you plan to coordinate the use of sanctions and diplomacy, bearing in mind that action on sanctions may endanger progress on diplomacy. – CNAS Energy, Economics, and Security Program Director Elizabeth Rosenberg  
  • In 2014, Russia annexed a sovereign state’s territory. The United States and Europe responded by simultaneously isolating and punishing Russia while providing the government in Ukraine with financial and non-lethal assistance. During your time as CEO, ExxonMobil successfully lobbied against a bill called the STAND for Ukraine Act, which would have converted President Obama's measures punishing Russia for Crimea into law for five years. This is because the sanctions against Russia forced Exxon to reverse course on a drilling project in the Arctic, which created a loss the company values at $1billion. Do you believe the sanctions against Russia should be lifted? Do you believe the United States could be doing more for Ukraine? – CNAS Strategy and Statecraft Program Director Julianne Smith and Research Associate Rachel Rizzo  
  • Perhaps the most significant part of your role as ExxonMobil CEO was creating profits for the company's shareholders. Part of that mandate included deepening relationships with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin through drilling projects valued in the billions. However, as the geopolitical climate over the past few years has proven, the geopolitical relationship between Russia and the United States is fraught with tension, which seems to differ from the positive relationship ExxonMobil had with the Russian government. How will you successfully shift from securing Exxon's shareholder interests to securing American interests, which at times are at odds with one another? – CNAS Strategy and Statecraft Program Research Associate Rachel Rizzo

North Korea

  • President-elect Trump has indicated that he would not allow Pyongyang to deploy a nuclear ICBM on his watch. How will he attempt to do this? What are your views on the nuclear and missile threats posed by North Korea? Do Pyongyang's developments pose a direct threat to the United States? How do you believe these threats will change over the course of the administration? Would you support policies that aim to isolate North Korea and halt these programs? What tools would you recommend the administration use to do so? – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper  


  • What role should U.S. allies play in the administration's approach to North Korea? To what extent does your approach require coordination with South Korea and Japan? What role should China play in the administration's approach to North Korea? How will you balance the need to compel Chinese action against North Korea with a possible rethink of the One China policy and proposed punitive economic measures against Beijing? – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper  


  • Your predecessor spent long spells of time negotiating the nuclear agreement with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and the relationship they developed became a useful channel for resolving other crises. One good example of this channel was Secretary Kerry's intervention last year to quickly resolve a tense situation in which a number of American sailors inadvertently entered Iranian territorial waters and were temporarily apprehended. Do you believe that the United States should continue to engage diplomatically with Iran even if it considers the relationship to be adversarial, or would you recommend ceasing communication? Will you be willing to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif? Do you believe the United States should continue to uphold the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or look for a way to withdraw? – CNAS Middle East Security Program Director Ilan Goldenberg

China and Taiwan

  • In recent years China has become more assertive in claiming the vast majority of the South China Sea. Its so-called nine-dashed line map may be based on questionable history, but through faits accomplis and incremental actions, Beijing is gradually making those ambitious claims a reality. Over the past three years, China has built artificial islands in the Spratly Islands and is arming them as military bases. Most recently, it has seized an American UUV with no international legal justification whatsoever. Will the Trump administration develop a strategy to prevent the militarization of the land features in the South China Sea? How will it dissuade Chinese challenges to freedom of navigation and Chinese coercion against its neighbors? – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper  


  • Since December 1978, when President Carter formally recognized the Beijing regime, administrations have hewed to a “One China” policy. That policy is deliberately ambiguous. As Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher testified: “[The U.S.] has acknowledged the Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China, but the United States has not itself agreed to this position.”  Does the "One China" policy continue to serve U.S. interests or should the understanding with China on Taiwan be clarified, adjusted, or renegotiated? – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper  


  • When the United States derecognized Taipei in 1979, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act (22 USC 48, Sections 3301-3316), which states: “Whenever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.” Congress also declared (Section 3301 (b)(6)) that the United States should “maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.” Should the Taiwan Relations Act be revised? If the United States should take a different approach to Taiwan, please explain what that should include. Meanwhile, what should the United States do if China continues to pressure Taiwan, including by undermining its economy or reducing its role in international affairs? – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper    


  • The United States, through several Republican and Democratic administrations, has spent the last 70 years working in tandem with its European allies to build, reform, and support a long list of international institutions. Today many of those institutions are in crisis as they struggle to adapt to new challenges and face increasing skepticism about their utility by publics on both sides of the Atlantic. In recent months, President-elect Trump has expressed his own disdain for many of those institutions including the European Union, NATO, and the United Nations. Do you agree with him? What role should the United States play in preserving and strengthening those institutions? – CNAS Strategy and Statecraft Program Director Julianne Smith

Cyber Warfare

  • ###liWhat lessons do you think North Korea and China have drawn from the Obama administration’s responses to major public hacking, whether in the case of Sony Pictures or the PLA officers who were indicted for civilian economic espionage? What will be the administration’s response to these types of cyber attacks?  – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper 


  • The president-elect has made clear his desire to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. I understand the desire to negotiate better deals that would boost U.S. jobs and economic growth. However, simply walking away from TPP has marginalized the United States and further opened the way for Chinese influence in the form of a Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (or RCEP) free trade agreement. China was already expanding its reach throughout the region with major development initiatives, including the so-called “One Belt, One Road” and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. How will the new administration go about building trade, development, and other geoeconomic policies in what is arguably the world’s most dynamic region?  – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper    


  • On June 3, 2013, in a speech to the Asia Society Global Forum, you endorsed TPP, calling it "one of the most promising developments" in the effort to promote international cooperation and energy trade. The president-elect has strongly denounced TPP and other multilateral trade agreements. How do your views differ from his and how should the United States demonstrate economic leadership in Asia? – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper  


  • Since World War II, the United States has generally rejected spheres-of-influence politics in favor of an open and rules-based international order. The construction of that order was a direct response to the wars and destruction that characterized the first half of the 20th century. Today, the United States supports the ability of countries – even those on the borders of other great powers – to choose their allies and alignments. Do you believe this remains the right principle on wish to base American foreign policy, or should powers like Russia and China enjoy special privileges in the countries on their periphery? – CNAS President Richard Fontaine


  • Maintaining strong alliances has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy for decades. How do you view the value of American allies, and what would you like to see change in our NATO relationships and our five treaty allies in Asia? – CNAS President Richard Fontaine


  • ###liOr are you expecting a country such as Japan to spend more than its current 1 percent of GDP on defense? Or are you looking for Japan and Korea to provide greater assistance with other priorities, both in and out of the Asia-Pacific region? And would you agree that it is a good idea to support cooperation between and among U.S. allies, whether Japan and South Korea or Japan and Australia? – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper    

State Department Budget

  • In President Obama’s first term, Secretaries Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates joined forces to argue against cuts to the State Department’s budget. They argued that a balanced national security strategy requires a balanced national security budget. Do you believe the State Department requires a larger budget? – CNAS Strategy and Statecraft Program Director Julianne Smith

Security Assistance
·      The Department of State is the lead in the U.S. government for security assistance to allies and partners. However, for years the Department of Defense has successfully made the case for an increased role in security assistance, advocating for increased authority and resources in pursuit of expanding near-term capacity building for allies and partners and arguing that State does not give high enough priority, speed, or manpower to this issue. As a result, U.S. security cooperation activities, including foreign military sales, have expanded considerably over the last decade. At the same time, many experts have questioned whether the U.S. government is able to measure the effectiveness or risks of its security assistance programs. How do you view the role of security assistance in the Trump administration’s approach to foreign policy, and do you plan to seek changes in the role and prioritization of this issue for State? – CNAS Deputy Director of Studies Loren DeJonge Schulman
Southeast Asia

  • Largely in response to China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, the United States has undertaken a multi-year Maritime Security Initiative aimed at building allied and partner capacity of Southeast Asian countries. Allies such as the Philippines and partners such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia need help with maritime domain awareness and maritime and air defenses, among other things. Do you intend to preserve this initiative? If not, how would you change it? Do you believe this type of security cooperation can contribute to preserving regional security? And how should the U.S. balance concerns over human rights and democracy with the strategic imperative of maintaining strong relationships with key allies like Thailand and the Philippines, or over corruption charges with important partners such as Malaysia? – CNAS Asia-Pacific Security Program Director Patrick Cronin and Senior Fellow Mira Rapp-Hooper  


CNAS experts are available for interviews on the confirmation hearing. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org, or call 202-457-9409.