Lavrov promises to ‘teach Tillerson to dance’ after Secretary of State’s ‘no tango’ jibe
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he could teach his US counterpart a few moves, after Rex Tillerson reportedly implied there was no point dancing the diplomatic tango with Lavrov, because Moscow’s sole choreographer is Vladimir Putin.
The dance-off began when Tillerson was lunching with other NATO foreign ministers in Brussels last week, a meeting in which he sought to reassure Washington’s allies about its commitment to the organization, despite repeated criticisms from President Donald Trump.
As reported by Politico, another politician said to Tillerson that in terms of building better ties with Russia, “it takes two to tango.”
Tillerson replied: “You can dance with Russia and you might also gain something out of it. But for sure you cannot tango with Lavrov because he is not allowed to dance that one.”
According to Politico’s inside source, Tillerson’s pirouette won a spontaneous ovation from others around the table.
On Tuesday, it was Lavrov’s turn to strut his stuff.
“My mother forbade me from dancing with boys,” said the diplomat in Moscow.
He also said he was ready to offer the 65-year-old former ExxonMobil executive a dancing lesson of his own.
“If Rex Tillerson feels that he cannot yet dance with everyone, we are ready to help. He is a very experienced man, and I am sure that he will prove to be a fast learner.”
On both sides of the Atlantic, the Trump administration was expected to be a more willing partner for Moscow, but despite a softening of rhetoric – light-hearted repartee was off the program in the twilight of Barack Obama’s second term – the two leaders are not in lockstep.
Contentious issues remain over Syria, sanctions related to Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s alarm at the increasing NATO presence in Eastern Europe, and the continuing installation of a missile defense shield around Russia’s borders.
Putin and Trump have exchanged several phone calls, and are expected to meet at the G20 Summit in Hamburg in July, though officials from both sides have speculated that an earlier one-to-one encounter is possible.