In March 2014 – right after Moscow’s Crimea operation – Christopher Helman, who covers the energy business for Forbeswrote:

So why has Exxon excelled there [in Russia]? I think it’s because Exxon has proven itself to be as hard-nosed as Putin is.

Agreed. I’m not so sure about the following, however, since the Kremlin’s thought process is a riddle:

When you consider the obvious contempt that Putin and his team have for President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and anyone else from the administration, it seems clear that Putin’s friendship with Tillerson is likely the most constructive high-level Russo-American relationship there is.

Two years and nine months later, Steve Coll, the dean of Columbia’s school of journalism and the author of Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, offered his view of Tillerson’s pending nomination in the New Yorker. I believe Coll’s article is worth reading in its entirety. No quotes can make up for the whole.

The corporation maintains a political-intelligence and analysis department at its headquarters in Irving, Texas, staffed by former government officials, which tries to predict the stability of countries many years into the future by analyzing demographics, employment, political control, and other “fundamentals…”

In certain smaller countries where locals are doing lots of business abroad, this kind of analysis gets readily shared with the government, which reciprocates with info and insights: the business community and the intelligence community are intermingled. Not so in the US, apparently – to the benefit of general liberty but to the detriment of the government’s intelligence service.

…Trump is handing the State Department to a man who has worked his whole life running a parallel quasi-state, for the benefit of shareholders, fashioning relationships with foreign leaders that may or may not conform to the interests of the United States government. In his career at ExxonMobil, Tillerson has no doubt honed many of the day-to-day skills that a Secretary of State must exercise: absorbing complex political analysis, evaluating foreign leaders, attending ceremonial events, and negotiating with friends and adversaries.

Not “his whole life,” of course, but let’s say the past fifteen years, starting with his appointment as senior VP and one of the two plausible successors to Lee Raymond, in 2001.

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