Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was on Tuesday chosen as the new US Secretary of State by President- elect Donald Trump, a nomination that could face intense scrutiny due to the veteran oil executive’s close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump took to Twitter to make the announcement:
I have chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
“His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him (Tillerson) an excellent choice for Secretary of State,” Trump said in the statement.
Like Trump, Tillerson, 64, has no formal foreign policy experience, but has built close relationships with many world leaders by closing massive deals across Eurasia and the Middle East on behalf of the world’s largest energy company.
Tillerson was originally a dark horse for the secretary of state nomination, but emerged from a lengthy public interview and vetting process that included better-known quantities like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee.
Tillerson said he shared Trump’s “vision for restoring the credibility of the United States’ foreign relations and advancing our country’s national security.”
Trump has called Tillerson a “world-class player” and the transition team is likely to stress that his mastery of complex negotiations and knowledge of geopolitical factors shaping the oil industry are directly relevant to heading US diplomacy and managing the State Department.
Tillerson was recommended to Trump by former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker and former Secretary of Defence Bob Gates, CNN quoted sources as saying.
Trump and Tillerson possess similar dealmaking business backgrounds and similar views of the world, sources said, and there was a level of comfort that Trump hadn’t found with anyone else. Tillerson’s nomination could face intense scrutiny in the Senate, considering his years of work in Russia and the Middle East on behalf of the multinational petroleum company.
Tillerson is considered one of the faces of Big Oil globally. In 2011, Exxon signed a deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft to provide access to oil resources in the Arctic. Rosneft’s largest shareholder is the Russian government. Putin attended the Exxon signing ceremony and later awarded Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship.