Who is Rex Tillerson?

Out of all the potential candidates for President-elect Donald Trump’s top cabinet role, the one who is now in the lead is the least well known in the political realm. He is, however, known in the business realm. Sources close to the transition team say that it is only a matter of time until Rex Tillerson, the chairman of Exxon, is announced as Trump’s choice as Secretary of State. So, who is Rex Tillerson, and why is he the pick for this extremely important job?

This position is of utter importance when it comes to all foreign policy agreements with the United States and other countries. All diplomatic deals come from extensive travel, and extensive understanding of foreign affairs. Tillerson, who has been with Exxon for 41 years, is known for his deals with countries, and their leaders, around the world. Especially in areas that most need diplomatic negotiations. And in this election, the most noteworthy is Russia.

Tillerson has extensive ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. As the Trump campaign increasingly comes under scrutiny for its potential ties with Russia, it seems a little too ironic that the top contender for Secretary of State has met with the Russian president, and has also done business with him. This can viewed in two different ways. First, that he is in the pocket of Putin and therefore will put Russia’s interest at the top of his list while Secretary of State. Or, that since he is close with Putin, he will be able to deal with the president as an equal, and will be able to ease the diplomatic relations between America and its former foe. Western sanctions, in particular, have hurt Russia’s oil production, and Exxon’s oil productions with the country. But Tillerson has also worked with many other countries in regards to Exxon and oil production (like Yemen and Qatar), and will know the leaders of that country if he enters into this diplomatic role. As Donald Trump built his campaign on a business platform, it is expected a reason for this choice is that Tillerson will deal with foreign countries from this perspective, and will make decisions that better America’s economy on a global scale.

Another aspect of Tillerson is that while chairman, he acknowledged global warming and the role of energy companies in this narrative. For that reason, it is assumed Tillerson will make decisions within this context. As Trump has nominated different perspectives on climate change within his cabinet, Tillerson tips the balance to a cabinet that will recognize this, and make changes to help fight it.

The Senate will need to confirm this nomination, and Tillerson may face backlash over his ties with Russia. As Congressional leaders have called for an investigation into alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, Tillerson may come under increased scrutiny for his time in Moscow. There will have to be proof that his nomination is for the United State’s best interest, and that the highest diplomatic position is not a Russian political pawn.