In the foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. Senate on January 11 held a hearing on the nomination of Rex Tillerson proposed by the President-elect Donald trump for the post of Secretary of state. It is expected that Tillerson will ask about business ties with Russia, creating a risk of conflict of interest, and how it intends to liquidate its assets.
Putting forward the candidacy of the former head of ExxonMobil, the largest public (i.e. without government restrictions placing their shares on the stock markets) the oil company in the world — for the post of Secretary of state, the newly elected President, Donald trump has made it clear that, obviously, he intends to stick to promises made during the election campaign to restore Washington’s relations with Moscow.
Forbes magazine in early 2016 put Rex Tillerson on the 25-th place in the ranking of the most powerful persons of the world (the year before he took the same rating 20-e a place). From 1 January 2017 Tillerson resigned as Director of ExxonMobil, who took his successor Darren woods. Previously published data that the most part of half-a-billion state Tillerson invested in shares of this oil company, which he plans to sell. The remaining capital — about $ 180 million — Tillerson intends to transfer to the trust the trust. If approved, his appointment as Secretary of state he will also be forced to leave the Board of Directors of a number of research and public organizations and to abandon the bonus of $ 7 million, which entitled to him as severance.
Tillerson, head of ExxonMobil, has signed major deals in Moscow and St. Petersburg in the 90-ies of the last century. It was then, according to some, he has become closely acquainted with the current head of the Russian state Corporation “Rosneft” Igor Sechin, in those years worked in city administration of St. Petersburg together with Vladimir Putin. In 2014, at meeting of shareholders “Rosneft” Sechin said that Rex Tillerson is the person with whom he, despite all the international sanctions, “would love to ride on motorcycles on the roads of the United States.”
Already in 1998, Rex Tillerson headed the Russian-American company Exxon Neftegas, registered in the Bahamas. In the same 90-ies, representing ExxonMobil in Russia, Tillerson made an agreement with the Russian authorities to establish an international consortium to develop the project “Sakhalin-1”. The main operator of this company, considered the largest in terms of direct foreign investments in Russia (more than 4 and a half billion dollars by early 2006), became a subsidiary of the same company ExxonMobil under the name “Exxon Neftegaz limited”, which has a 30 percent stake in the project. The consortium includes Rosneft (20 percent), Indian oil Corporation Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) and a number of other partners.
In 2011, led by Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil signed with the Corporation “Rosneft” the agreement on $ 500 billion, under which she was given access to the hydrocarbon fields on the Russian Arctic shelf in exchange for a guaranteed investment of the Russian side in some of ExxonMobil projects in third countries.
During the last years of Rex Tillerson has called for the restoration of relations between the West and Moscow and rapprochement between the USA with Russia — perhaps not least because he was one of the first to feel and your business the painful effect of the U.S. sanctions imposed against the Kremlin in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea and support for armed separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Contract 2011, frozen by the U.S. government, according to some, has cost ExxonMobil a total of 600 billion dollars of losses.
Despite the fact that 64-year-old Tillerson has no experience of public service, primarily in the field of diplomacy, he repeatedly commented on Russia’s actions on the world stage and the behavior of its leaders. If the US Senate still to approve his appointment as Secretary of state, he will have to decide how to respond in the future on a number of very pressing issues and problems.
Tillerson and Putin
Since the arrival of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin to power in 2000, Rex Tillerson personally met with him very much and was one of two foreign oil “magnates,” whom Putin awarded Russian order of Friendship. It happened on 21 June 2013 in Saint-Petersburg economic forum.
As pointed out in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, John Hamr, former Deputy Secretary of defense under President bill Clinton, Tillerson may have held with Putin more time than any other known American, with the exception of former Secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
Tillerson and sanctions against Russia
The vast majority of ratings and comments made by Rex Tillerson in Moscow, focused exclusively on the financial and business sector. However, after the contract with ExxonMobil “Rosneft” on joint extraction of hydrocarbons in the Russian Arctic fell in connection with the beginning of sanctions against Russia, Rex Tillerson criticized the mechanism of their action as “an instrument of foreign geopolitical interests”:
— In General, we do not consider them effective for as long as they do not have universal character, and to achieve this extremely difficult. We therefore always encourage people to make such decisions, think about the huge bilateral damage they are causing to real people who are suffering from the imposition of any sanctions, despite the fact that they, again, because of the ineffectiveness of rarely reach the result, said Tex Tillerson at a meeting of ExxonMobil shareholders in 2014.
Tillerson and criticism of Russia
Despite the fact that Tillerson has always strongly refrained from any public criticism of the Kremlin and personally the President Vladimir Putin, in 2008, being invited at the St. Petersburg economic forum, he said that Russia needs to urgently improve its legal system and to put at the head of the rule of law. “In Russia today there is no respect for the law, he said. However, according to observers, such criticism at the time fully within the mainstream of the declared by the then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s campaign against “legal nihilism”.
In addition, despite the frequent close contacts with Vladimir Putin and top Kremlin officials, in 2007, Rex Tillerson, has publicly lamented the lack of transparency of many decisions of the Russian authorities: “I don’t know condition anyone to understand in General why the Russian government goes sometimes the way it goes”.