Gates on Tillerson's ties to Putin: 'Being friendly doesn't make you friends'

Gates on Tillerson's ties to Putin: 'Being friendly doesn't make you friends'
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Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in an interview broadcast on Sunday defended Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE's pick for secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, amid backlash over the Exxon Mobil CEO's close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

"Clearly the CEO of any U.S. company that does business around the world is going to want to be on friendly relationships with the leaders and governments of those countries where they do business," Gates said on NBC's "Meet The Press."

"But being friendly doesn't make you friends."


Gates said he thinks it is an "asset" so have someone serve as secretary of State who has experience dealing with different countries and their leaders around the world.

Gates said Tillerson's only job would be to "do what's in the best interests of the United States."

"After all," he added, "if you wanted to show pictures, I hoisted a glass of vodka more than one time with the head of the KGB and it looked like it was friendly if you'd taken a photograph of it. But I can guarantee you, we weren't friends. We were adversaries."

Gates said you "maintain pleasantries" with those whom you do business.

"You can't be at each other's throats 24/7," he said.

"So I think mistaking a picture of somebody lifting a champagne glass or shaking hands with somebody, confusing that with being friends or being closely associated other than in a business sense, I think is a mistake. I think it's a false narrative."

Tillerson has been facing criticism over his relationship with Russia and its president. The scrutiny comes after a secret CIA report concluded Russia intervened in the presidential election to help elect Trump win the White House.