Top geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer wrote approvingly on Wednesday of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, saying his ties to Russia could actually be a good thing.
Tillerson’s nomination as Washington’s chief diplomat and the primary conduit between the US and foreign governments has drawn criticism from those worried about his connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tillerson, who has no government experience and has never worked as a diplomat, has ties to Russia that go back nearly two decades. Tillerson met Putin in 1999, according to Bloomberg, when he first represented Exxon’s interests in Russia while the country was under Boris Yeltsin’s leadership.
“He’s a strong executive,” wrote Bremmer, who is president of the Eurasia Group. “He has a better relationship with Putin than anyone else Trump could have chosen, and before we dismiss that as a bad thing, we should consider the benefits of better communications with a guy that has a demonstrated ability to make all kinds of trouble for Washington.”
Bremmer speculated that Tillerson might foster better US relations with Russia than the Obama administration did.
“As an oilman, Tillerson, like Trump, will take a very transactional approach to Putin,” Bremmer wrote. “Some good may come from that. At the very least, it will produce better results for the US than Obama ever got from Moscow.”
Bremmer also said the US government’s investigation of meddling in the US presidential election would only ratchet up tensions between the two nations and between Trump (whom Russia is accused of helping) and Congress.
Sonam Sheth contributed to this report.