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Tillerson, During Confirmation Hearing, Says Russia Poses 'Danger' But Refuses to Call Putin 'War Criminal'

Tillerson, During Confirmation Hearing, Says Russia Poses 'Danger' But Refuses to Call Putin 'War Criminal'

FoxNews.com --

Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson sought Wednesday to assuage bipartisan concerns about his ties to Russia, testifying at his confirmation hearing he thinks Moscow poses a "danger" and blasting the country's annexation of Crimea -- though he refused to go so far as to call Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" during a contentious back-and-forth with Sen. Marco Rubio.

During the tense exchange at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio persistently questioned Tillerson in an attempt to get him to call Putin a war criminal for Russian military intervention in Syria. Tillerson refused to do so.

"I find it discouraging your ability to cite that, which I think is globally accepted," Rubio, R-Fla., said.

Tillerson also wouldn't bite when Rubio, a former opponent of President-elect Donald Trump during the Republican presidential primary, tried to get Tillerson to say Putin murdered political foes.

Still, Tillerson took a noticeably harder line toward Putin and Russia than Trump has done during the transition period and prior to it.

“We must also be clear-eyed about our relationship with Russia,” Tillerson said. “Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests … our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia.”

Tillerson called Russia an "unfriendly adversary" during later questioning, stopping short of saying the nation was an enemy of the U.S.

Russia took center-stage during the early portion of the hearing for Tillerson, the ExxonMobil CEO vying to be confirmed as the nation's top diplomat. Senators grilled Tillerson amid swirling questions about alleged meddling in U.S. politics by the Kremlin and Tillerson’s own business ties to Russia.

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