Friends and associates said few U.S. citizens are closer to Mr. Putin than Mr. Tillerson, who has known Mr. Putin since he represented Exxon’s interests in Russia during the regime of Boris Yeltsin.From the New York Times yesterday:
“He has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger,” said John Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary during the Clinton administration and president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank where Mr. Tillerson is a board member.
In 2011, Mr. Tillerson struck a deal giving Exxon access to prized Arctic resources in Russia as well as allowing Russia’s state oil company, OAO Rosneft, to invest in Exxon concessions all over the world. The following year, the Kremlin bestowed the country’s Order of Friendship decoration on Mr. Tillerson.
Mr. Tillerson has worked to strengthen Exxon Mobil’s ties with Russia. The company has various joint ventures with the oil giant Rosneft around Russia, and has contributed to social programs in education and health. In 2012, the Russian government awarded Mr. Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship decoration.The nomination of the Exxon CEO will surely be criticized by advocates for action on climate change, though unlike some of Trump's nominees Tillerson does not deny climate-change science, and Exxon under his tenure expressed support for a carbon tax and the Paris climate agreement. Tillerson told shareholders this year, “We believe that addressing the risk of climate change is a global issue." (Environmental activists, however, argue that the actions of Tillerson and Exxon don't match their softer rhetoric; Bill McKibben wrote earlier this year, "As bad as Exxon has been in the past, what it's doing now ... is helping push the planet over the edge and into the biggest crisis in the entire span of the human story.")
Western sanctions against Russia prohibiting the nation from certain energy development activities have slowed Exxon Mobil’s investments, particularly a joint venture with Rosneft that was supposed to start drilling for oil in the Kara Sea in 2014. Mr. Tillerson has spoken out against sanctions, in part because Exxon Mobil is unable to collect revenues from an investment in an oil and gas consortium it belongs to that operates off Sakhalin Island.