Donald Trump gave Russia an early holiday gift that smells like a payoff.
It’s rather easy to connect the dots. Russia meddled in the U.S. election in order to benefit Trump, and now he’s repaying Vladimir Putin by nominating ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Tillerson obtained drilling rights in the Russian Arctic thanks to a deal that allowed Russia’s state-owned oil company to invest in ExxonMobil’s global operations, which allowed Tillerson to deepen his relationship with Putin and ultimately receive an award from the Russian president. When U.S. sanctions against Russia cut into Exxon Mobil’s profit, Tillerson lobbied to have them lifted, and as president, Donald Trump can “wipe out Russia sanctions with stroke of the pen.”
Tillerson’s ties to Russian officials are raising alarms on both sides of the aisle, with Republicans casting doubt on his nomination and demanding an official inquiry into Russia’s influence over the election.
Here’s how it’s playing in the press today:
Wall Street Journal: Moscow Sees Rex Tillerson as Chance to End Sanctions, Reboot U.S. Ties
Mr. Trump’s pick, Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Rex Tillerson, built his name on deals with Russia; President Vladimir Putin awarded him Russia’s Order of Friendship for his work here. He has opposed the sanctions imposed in response to Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and support for an antigovernment rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
Added [pro-Kremlin political commentator Sergei] Markov: Mr. Trump’s pick for top diplomat is “some kind of Christmas gift from the American people to the Russian people.”
NBC Nightly News: “Kremlin Couldn’t Be Happier With The Way Trump’s Cabinet Is Shaping Up, Especially With Rex Tillerson As Potential Secretary Of State”
Shepard Smith on Fox News: “Tillerson’s Friends Told The Wall Street Journal Of The 300 Million Plus People In The United States, There Are Few, If Any, Closer To The Russian Leader”
Good Morning America: Russia Commentators Are “Ecstatic, Saying This Could Not Have Been A Better Pick For The Kremlin”
CBS Evening News: Tillerson Opposed Sanctions On Russia
New York Times: Tillerson Put Exxon Priorities Ahead of American Policy
Exxon Mobil executives said Mr. Tillerson was not available for an interview. But they argued that he and Mr. Putin are not friends, countering criticism in the United States that Mr. Tillerson is too close to Russia to take a strong stance against it. Mr. Putin awarded Mr. Tillerson a medal of friendship for concluding corporate deals in Russia.
Not long after, the United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s oil industry in 2014 over Moscow’s deadly intervention in Ukraine, leading American foreign policy and the company’s investment goals to diverge. Exxon Mobil now has billions of dollars in deals that will move forward only if the sanctions are lifted.
“The one clear trend that runs through Exxon’s foreign policy is that they are really all about business and doing what is best for shareholders,” said Ben Van Heuvelen, the managing editor of Iraq Oil Report. “They are willing to look the other way in the face of a whole host of problems.”