Exxon chief Tillerson to be Secretary of State

The nascent Donald Trump administration finally got its Secretary of State. The President Elect has zeroed on to Rex W. Tillerson to hold the top diplomatic post. The latter is Exxon Mobil’s chief executive, and has his fair share of controversies, including an excellent relationship with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Divisive choice

Tillerson can be described as a fractious choice. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have warned Trump that he will be subject to intense questioning on his involvement with the Russian administration. President Putin awarded him in 2013 one of the country’s highest honors, the Order of Friendship. There will also be a lot of questions related to Exxon Mobil’s trade with Moscow. The US Company has oil contracts totaling billions of dollars with Russia. These contracts can bear fruit only if the US lifts sanctions imposed on the country. It is clear that the line of being an oil industry professional and the leading diplomat of the United States is going to be extremely blurry for Tillerson.

Fears about such a happening have been further exemplified by reports that Tillerson has publicly criticized the sanctions. The restrictions have impeded Exxon Mobil’s progress in Russia. This includes an agreement which the state oil company has made to explore and also pump in Siberia oil worth billions of dollars.

Republicans are also wary of the choice. John McCain, a Republican elected from Arizona and a Senator, opined that the connections between Putin and Tillerson are a matter of concern. He promised to examine the link closely if Tillerson is about to be nominated.

Diplomacy, not deals

Trump ended the speculation about who will become Secretary of State after a number of weeks. He rejected both Romney and Guiliani and also a list which included the Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker, ex-army General David H. Petreaus and the former 2012 era presidential candidate and former Utah governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. All rejected candidates got a call regarding the President-Elect’s final decision.

If Tillerson gets confirmed, he will face a number of challenges, including the nurturing of alliances around the globe which are dependent on diplomacy and not on deals. This aspect could be a clincher when dealing with Russia. The Texas oilman has fought for many years to strengthen connections with Russia via business negotiations valued at billions of dollars. Exxon, under his lead, has inked joint ventures with the Russian government backed Rosneft and also donated to Russia’s social and health programs.

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