Donald Trump draws closer to Moscow with his naming of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson as secretary of state.
As Politico points out, Tillerson had publicly criticized Russian lawlessness during a visit to St. Petersburg in 2008.
But three years later, Exxon did a multibillion-dollar deal in 2011 with Rosneft, the Russian state oil company run by Vladimir Putin’s friend, Igor I. Sechin. The agreement gave Exxon access to oil resources in the Arctic, Siberia and the Black Sea. Rosneft, in turn, gained a stake in Exxon’s U.S. projects.
Putin attended the signing ceremony for the contract. A year later, he bestowed Russia’s Order of Friendship on Tillerson.
When the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 for its aggression in Ukraine, Exxon had to stop drilling in the arctic, but the company continued to claim acreage for future projects.
Tillerson voiced general opposition to sanctions at the company’s 2014 meeting: “We do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensibly, and that’s a very hard thing to do,” he said. “So we always encourage the people who are making those decisions to consider the very broad collateral damage of who are they really harming.”
The New York Times writes that Exxon stands to make billions of dollars if the sanctions are lifted.
Filings as of Dec. 9 show that Tillerson owns $226 million in company stock. (Expect share value to rise Monday.)
The interactive Muckety map above shows connections between Tillerson, Exxon, Rosneft, and Putin. Former Exxon CFO Donald Humphreys sits on Rosneft’s board, as does Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.
The news of Trump’s choice of Tillerson comes amidst mounting concerns about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The CIA last week presented members of Congress with its conclusion that Russia had hacked U.S. computers and leaked documents with the objective of helping Trump win.
Trump dismissed the reports. “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told Fox News. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. I don’t know why. They’ve talked about all sorts of things. Every week it’s another excuse.”