Vladimir Putin has 'good, businesslike' relations with Rex Tillerson, Kremlin says

Secretary of State nominee 'known to everyone' and has good ties with many officials, Russia says

Katie Forster
Tuesday 13 December 2016 14:10 GMT
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Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, has been named the new US Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, has been named the new US Secretary of State (Rex Features)

Rex Tillerson has good ties with Vladimir Putin and many Russian officials, the Kremlin has said.

Reacting to Donald Trump's nomination of the oil tycoon as US Secretary of State, a Kremlin spokesperson told reporters Mr Tillerson was "known to everyone" in Russia's government.

Foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said the Russian President and other representatives have "good, businesslike relations" with the ExxonMobil CEO, reported AFP news agency.

“[Mr Tillerson] has actively assisted business cooperation and is known to everyone”, said Mr Ushakov.

Asked whether Mr Tillerson becoming secretary of state could help mend US-Russian ties, he said: “We want to get out of the crisis state [of our relations], which does not satisfy neither the Russian nor the American side.”

Mr Tillerson, 64, emerged as Mr Trump's top pick for the position despite significant criticism for his apparent ties to the Russian President.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Mr Trump said the businessman's “tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for Secretary of State”.

“He will promote regional stability and focus on the core national security interests of the United States,” the President-elect said, according to his transition team.

The US Senate needs to approve Mr Tillerson's nomination before he can assume the position.

This could spark a confirmation fight from Democrats and some Republicans alarmed by the businessman's good relationship with Mr Putin.

Mr Tillerson's experience in diplomacy stems from making deals with foreign countries for America's largest energy company, which has operations in dozens of countries, some of them politically volatile or estranged from the US.

Russia has leaned heavily on Western companies for technology and know-how to tap its vast oil and gas resources.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr Tillerson negotiated an energy partnership with Russia believed to be valued at approximately $500bn (£394bn) in 2011.

The following year, the Kremlin awarded Mr Tillerson the Order of Friendship, the country's highest honour for foreign nationals.

Mr Tillerson, from Wichita Falls in Texas, has argued against sanctions that the US and European allies imposed on Russia after it annexed the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

He also has backed free trade and an expansive US presence in the Middle East, stances at odds with the more isolationist approach Mr Trump has pitched to his supporters.

The career Exxon employee joined the company after graduating from the University of Texas in 1975 with an engineering degree.

He spent years in oil production, working in Exxon's central US, Yemen and Russian operations, and was groomed for an executive position.

“[Mr Tillerson] will be a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America's vital national interests, and help reverse years of misguided foreign policies and actions that have weakened America's security and standing in the world,” Mr Trump said in his statement.

Mr Tillerson said he shared the President-elect's “vision for restoring the credibility of the United States' foreign relations and advancing our country's national security.”

In a tweet, Mr Trump added: "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."

The CIA recently concluded with “high confidence” that Russia sought to influence the US election on behalf of Trump, raising red flags among lawmakers concerned about the sanctity of the voting system and potentially straining relations at the start of Trump's administration.

Additional reporting from agencies

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