A business approach to diplomacy: why trump chose Tillerson

The US President-elect Donald trump after several weeks of interviews to choose a candidate for the post of Secretary of state for approval in the Senate, he will submit the candidacy of Rex Tillerson. Now Tillerson heads the world’s largest private oil company ExxonMobil. Consent of the Senate Tillerson not guaranteed — us lawmakers suspect it of overly close ties with Russia. In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin personally acquainted with the businessman, awarded him the order of Friendship. Under Tillerson’s leadership, ExxonMobil has implemented numerous projects in Russia.

Knowledge of Russian is an advantage

Tillerson have no experience of diplomatic work or stay in the civil service. Explaining his choice, trump has appealed to his successful business career and the ability to work with different governments. “Rex knows how to manage a global company that is the key skill for the leadership of the Department of state. His experience with international leaders is unsurpassed,” said trump in a statement. In a small biographical note mentions that Tillerson has worked on several Russian projects of ExxonMobil, but its purpose is not linked with his work in Russia.

In an interview with Fox News, which came on the evening of 11 September, trump said that Tillerson knowledge of Russian realities, will be his advantage. “He’s a world class player. The big advantage is that he knows many players and he knows them well. He makes a huge deal in Russia. He makes a huge deal for the company — not for themselves, for the company,” said then President-elect.

Tillerson has become a favorite for the post of Secretary of state in early December. Prior to this informal leader was considered to be the former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor MITT Romney and former new York mayor and a close associate of trump Rudolph Giuliani. In addition, called the names of the Senator from Tennessee Bob Corker and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton. The latter can be a substitute Tillerson and deal with routine matters as a person with diplomatic experience.

In 1998, Tillerson was appointed Vice President of Exxon Ventures, which is engaged in development of fields in Russia and the Caspian sea. In addition, he became President of “Exxon Neftegaz limited” the operator “Sakhalin-1”. In 1998, according to Reuters, Tillerson has established contacts with Russian officials. In 2006, he led the entire company ExxonMobil. In Russia, the main partner of Exxon — Rosneft.

Over the years, with Russia Tillerson repeatedly met with President Vladimir Putin. They are familiar at least since 2005, to the materials of the website of the Kremlin. Since then, Putin and Tillerson in the company of the President of “Rosneft” Igor Sechin not met in Russia.

A pragmatist without ideology

In 2014, the United States and EU have imposed on Russia sectoral sanctions due to the annexation of Crimea and events in Donbas. ExxonMobil lost $1 bln due to the release of some joint projects with Rosneft. However, the flagship project — “Sakhalin-1” — under the US sanctions do not hit, ExxonMobil continued to work on it together with “Rosneft”.

Tillerson repeatedly negatively responded about the anti-Russian sanctions. Cooperation ExxonMobil and “Rosneft” even after the introduction of sanctions in 2014 put credit Tillerson former in 2002-2004 Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Rosneft” Igor Yusufov. In the conversation he stressed the professionalism of the heads of ExxonMobil and expressed hope for objectivity and balance assessments on his part.

Tillerson is distinguished by pragmatism and rationality, said Wright Simonyan, the former from August 2012 to July 2013, the financial Advisor to the President of “Rosneft” Igor Sechin and member of the Supervisory Board of Russian regional development Bank (RRDB). Simonyan, personally acquainted with Tillerson, said that the first foreign visit after the appointment of Sechin to the post of President of “Rosneft” in may 2012 took place in the US at the invitation of ExxonMobil. The financier says that among employees of “Rosneft” and ExxonMobil have developed “excellent relations, which have never been politicized.”

“Tillerson were always the business approach, it possible to negotiate. Therefore, there will be great changes in relations between Russia and the United States, and two oil companies, even amid sanctions”, — hopes close to “Rosneft”, a source familiar with Tillerson.

Nomination Tillerson welcomed the Russian leadership. “A solid and very professional person,” Tillerson described the Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov. According to Ushakov, not only with President Putin and other Russian representatives of the “good business relations”, “all he is perceived as a very solid figure with their views and points of view.” Lavrov and Ushakov suggested that the appointment of Tillerson creates the opportunity for building mutually beneficial relations between Russia and the United States. The current state of relations between “two great powers” Ushakov called “absurd” (quoted by “RIA Novosti”). For the businessman “the secondary ideological themes,” says the President of the international Federation Council Committee Konstantin Kosachev.

“The nomination Tillerson is the personification of corporate business approach trump to international relations. He is a pragmatist who is willing for the benefit of their employer to negotiate with anyone. It will also focus economy, trade and energy cooperation, rather than the traditional international relations and security”, — says Pavel Demidov, expert of Center for strategic research. Tillerson may be the only member of the Cabinet of trump, who is ready to build relations with Russia, as the other special sympathies for it has not been noticed, indicates Demidov.

Threat of hope

Tillerson, however, pragmatism can become a threat to Moscow, warn the interlocutors . “Whatever friendships he had with anyone was, he would be guided primarily by economic interests of the United States,” says Simonyan. Kosachev warned that in the economic sphere Tillerson will be a tough negotiator: “In practical economic terms it would expect the direct benefit to his country from its relations with Russia. And “bargain” it will certainly be tough enough”.

“Russia may underestimate tough and consistent policy that we hope will hold the government of the elected President”, says Ariel Cohen, leading expert of the Atlantic Council. The expert drew attention to the fact that the Senate may not approve Tillerson: worried about possible Russian interference in the election process in the US, the Republicans, traditionally critical towards Moscow, sceptical Tillerson and can not approve it because Tillerson good working relationship with the Kremlin.”

Influential Republican senators John McCain and Marco Rubio said that Tillerson close ties with Russia need to learn before you consider him. However, two influential Republicans, former Secretary of state under George W. Bush Condoleezza rice and the Secretary of state under Bush Sr., James Baker, expressed Tillerson support. Hearings on the approval of Tillerson in the Senate will be held after the inauguration of the trump in January next year.

Tillerson is one of several big businessmen, who agreed to work in the administration of the trump. A former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin will become Finance Minister and billionaire Wilbur Ross will head the Commerce Department.

“The President-elect wants to shake the government, including the Department of state. Like many other businessmen, he believes that the state Department needs a new leader, new ideas and goals,” says Cohen. Under President Barack Obama, the state Department was headed by first Hillary Clinton, now a Department headed by John Kerry.