It’s official: America’s top diplomat is now Vladimir Putin’s favorite Exxon CEO.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate voted to let Rex Tillerson run the State Department by margin of 56 to 43 — the stiffest opposition any secretary of State has faced at confirmation in half a century.
One month ago, John McCain suggested that he would vote for Tillerson when “pigs fly.” So, you might want to check the sky for airborne hogs this evening — the Arizona maverick joined every other Republican senator in backing Trump’s nominee.
Tillerson also garnered the support of Democrats Mark Warner, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Manchin, along with left-leaning independent Angus King.
While lacking any experience in government, Tillerson did serve for many years as, in essence, a top foreign minister of the ExxonMobil empire. In that role, he brokered deals with foreign governments — often repressive ones — to secure his company’s access to oil and gas. Among Tillerson’s most ambitious deals was an agreement he struck with Vladmir Putin that allowed Exxon to extract Russia’s reserves of Arctic oil (which, thanks to climate change, are a lot more accessible than they used to be!). That whole project got iced by America’s sanctions on Russia, following the latter’s invasion of Crimea. But now, Tillerson is in a position to thaw that rift.
Still, the former Exxon CEO’s new gig isn’t all fun and profit. Handling diplomacy for the least diplomatic man ever elected president won’t be easy. Over the past few weeks, Trump has soured relations with America’s southern neighbor, its chief geopolitical frenemy, the most powerful nation in Europe, and most of the Muslim world.