Rex Tillerson, whom President-elect Donald Trump nominated Tuesday to be the secretary of state, has a long history of dealmaking as the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil company. It’s a skill that would be useful in his new role, but it’s also an attribute that might cause problems for him during his confirmation process in the U.S. Senate. Already, doubts are being raised about his long relationship with Russia, as well as his lack of political experience. But running a global corporation that would be world’s 41st-largest economy were it a country is no small feat; nor are Tillerson’s views about some of the world’s most pressing problems what his critics might expect.
I read five years worth of speeches made by Tillerson on Exxon’s website, and comments elsewhere, and they reveal a pragmatic executive confident about the role of energy in the world, the benefits of deregulation as well as free trade, and the dangers posed by climate change and the best ways to tackle it. Many of these views appear to diverge from Trump’s positions. Here’s a short list:
Tillerson’s relations with Russia are likely to come under the most scrutiny. President Vladimir Putin once presented him with the Order of Friendship, an award given to foreigners who work to improve relations with Russia. Trump’s expressed desire to work more closely with Russia, combined with his dismissal of the CIA’s assessment that Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential election, has already prompted concern about Tillerson’s nomination. In October 2015, Tillerson called Exxon’s Sakhlin-1 project in the Russian Arctic one he “take[s] a lot of personal pride” in. The project has been stalled because of U.S. and Western sanctions imposed on Russia following the country’s invasion of Crimea—sanctions that Trump could move to lift and which Tillerson has called ineffective. Speaking in June 2014, Tillerson touted the potential of the Arctic, noting: “In the years ahead, we look forward to taking advances achieved in these cutting-edge successes in Far East Russia and building upon them to unlock new supplies of oil and natural gas in the Kara Sea and beyond.”