Vladimir Putin oversees the signing of an agreement between Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, left, and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson on joint development of difficult-to-access oil reserves in western Siberia in 2012. Kremlin photo

In 2012, Vladimir Putin Palled Around With Rex Tillerson

The Kremlin even gave the oil executive an award


On June 14 and 15, 2012, Russian president Vladimir Putin traveled to Krasnodar, an administrative region on Russia’s Black Sea coast, just across the Kerch Strait from Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

While in Krasnodar, Putin met with military commanders, inspected weaponry and, finally, posed for photos with Rex Tillerson, then the CEO of U.S. oil company Exxon Mobil.

“An agreement between Rosneft [a Russian state-owned oil company] and the American Exxon Mobil oil company was signed in Mr. Putin’s presence,” the Russian government crowed in its press release.

Tillerson is U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. During Tillerson’s confirmation hearing on Jan. 11, 2017, Marco Rubio, a Republican U.S. senator from Florida, brought up Russia’s war crimes in Syria.

“Is Putin a war criminal?” Rubio asked.

“I would not use that term,” Tillerson said. “Those are very, very serious charges to make and I would want to have much more information before reaching a conclusion.”

“There’s so much information out there,” Rubio countered. “It should not be hard to say that Vladimir Putin’s military has conducted war crimes in Aleppo.”

Putin tours Krasnodar in 2012. Kremlin photo

In 2013, Russia awarded Tillerson its Order of Friendship award in recognition of the American’s benefit to the Russian economy. After Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in early 2014, the U.S. State Department — which Tillerson stands to lead — imposed sanctions on Russia that put on hold Rosneft’s deal with Exxon Mobil.

Tillerson opposed the sanctions — although, at his confirmation hearing, he denied this fact. “I have never lobbied against sanctions,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson, Sechin and Putin in 2012. Kremlin photos

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, interjected. “I think you called me at the time,” Corker said.

Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, reminded Tillerson that Tillerson’s 2014 call to a U.S. senator “likely constitutes lobbying.”

Tillerson told the senators at his hearing that, as America’s top diplomat, he would support “responses that will deter and prevent further expansion of a bad actor’s behavior.”

But he said that, under Trump, sanctions against Russia “can go either way.” He also blamed Russia’s aggression in Ukraine on an “absence of American leadership.”

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