President-elect Donald Trump has picked Exxon Mobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson to be his administration’s secretary of state, according to The New York Times. His experience at the head of the company has brought him into contact with a number of world leaders, including that of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Should he be confirmed to the office, Tillerson will take over from Secretary John Kerry and will face a number of pressing issues such as the nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran and chilly relations with Russia.
Tillerson has no governmental or diplomatic experience, but has extensive experience dealing with world leaders and through his career at ExxonMobil, where he is due to retire next year at the age of 65. He will aided by former UN Ambassador John Bolton as deputy secretary of state, according to NBC News.
Tillerson first joined Exxon in 1975. He became the president and director of Exxon Mobil in 2004, and was named CEO two years later. Over the course of his career, he worked to oversee Exxon’s operations in Russia and the Caspian Sea. He was awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin, according to his corporate biography. The United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s following the country’s annexation of Crimea in 2013. ExxonMobil opposed the sanctions that the US has imposed on Russia, which may have cost the company upwards of $1 billion in lost revenues.
Tillerson’s ties with ExxonMobil and Russia will likely be subject to a number of questions in his confirmation hearings, especially after the CIA has determined that Russia’s efforts were intended to aid Trump’s campaign to win the White House. Trump has repudiated these reports, saying that they are “ridiculous.”
Selecting Tillerson for secretary of state also promises to raise questions about the United States’ role in the Paris Climate Agreement. While ExxonMobil has been a key producer of fossil fuels, it was under Tillerson’s watch that the company began to shift its stance toward climate change, The Washington Post says. Last month, the company voiced its support for the agreement. Unlike Trump, Tillerson has affirmed that a changing climate requires serious action.