Want to play hard ball at the State Department with a force who actually knows what he’s doing and will look out for America’s interests? Donald Trump has shrewdly selected just the seasoned veteran for the job, ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson.
The WSJ brings readers an excellent Tillerson overview.
Rex Tillerson was propelled to the top of Exxon Mobil Corp. partly by negotiating a deal with Vladimir Putin to kick-start an oil project in Russia’s Far East, one of a series of agreements between the pair stretching back to 1999.
That relationship is both Mr. Tillerson’s biggest claim to the nomination as Donald Trump’s secretary of state, and potentially the biggest concern about him in the U.S. Congress, where members of both parties are pushing for an investigation into Russia’s alleged hacking and its impact on the U.S. election.
“I have a very close relationship with [Mr. Putin],” Mr. Tillerson told students at the University of Texas, his alma mater, in February. “I don’t agree with everything he’s doing. I don’t agree with everything a lot of leaders are doing. But he understands that I am a businessman. And I have invested a lot of money, our company has invested a lot of money, in Russia, very successfully.”
At a June 2012 meeting with Mr. Putin, Mr. Tillerson said Exxon’s Arctic deal enhanced U.S.-Russian ties. “I agree, as you point out, that nothing strengthens relationships between countries better than business enterprise,” a Kremlin transcript quoted him as saying.
The next year, Mr. Putin awarded him Russia’s Order of Friendship for his work.
Under Mr. Tillerson, Exxon dealt extensively with countries near the top of Transparency International’s most-corrupt list, including Chad, Papua New Guinea, Venezuela, Libya, Iraq, Angola and Equatorial Guinea.
Mr. Tillerson’s Russian oil diplomacy was on display during a visit to Moscow in June, when he was asked about the economic sanctions that have blocked Exxon from reaping the benefits of the Arctic-drilling agreement and partnership he helped broker in 2011.
Referring to Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft and a close ally of Mr. Putin, he said: “As to the sanctions questions, I’ll use the same approach that my friend Mr. Sechin took. That’s a question for the government. So if there’s a U.S. government official here who’d like to respond, I’m happy to toss it to them.”