Mr. T. Goes To Москва (Russian for Moscow)

Rex Tillerson will be visiting Moscow this week.  Not at all unusual for the Secretary of State, but in these unstable times, and with his lack of any experience, is he capable of achieving any positive results?  Tillerson, on the job for barely two months, had one of the most contentious confirmation hearings, and the vote in the senate received the most opposition of any secretary of state in the past 50 years. Why?  Two reasons:  1) Tillerson is likely the least qualified for the position of any in at least 50 years, and 2) Tillerson is known for his ties to the Russian government.

During Tillerson’s confirmation hearing, he dodged more questions than he answered, again giving the appearance of either ignorance or a hidden agenda which he was unwilling to share.  He refused to answer questions regarding whether Putin should be considered a war criminal, avoided condemning human rights abuses in China, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, and sidestepped a direct answer about whether humans cause climate change.

tillerson-2Given that Tillerson is the former CEO of Exxon-Mobile, there are also concerns about how long Tillerson would recuse himself from decisions that could affect ExxonMobil once he became the top US diplomat. On leaving ExxonMobil, Tillerson was given, as part of his severance package, some 2 million Exxon shares — worth more than $181 million at current prices — over the next decade. Though the value of the shares is to be put into a managed trust, I posit that he retains a vested interest in the well-being of the company he worked for for some 40 years.

Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut said, “We have reason to fear that Mr. Tillerson would run the State Department like he ran Exxon, where he repeatedly worked against US national interests. We have a President who has openly mocked human rights, who has supported vicious dictators, and a secretary of state who has made a career of doing business with some of the worst human rights violators in the world.”

During Tillerson’s tenure as a high-level executive with ExxonMobil, eventually becoming CEO, Exxon established a joint venture with Shell called Infineum. That venture’s purpose was to conduct business with Iran, Sudan and Syria, all considered by the US to be state sponsors of terror and under US sanctions.  Mr. Tillerson claimed, while under oath during his confirmation hearings, to know nothing about this. I am skeptical.

tillerson-award

Tillerson receives Order of Friendship award from Putin (2013)

As Tillerson heads to Moscow this week, allegedly to take a tough stance in attempting to convince the Russian government to retract its support for al-Assad of Syria, it pays to remember that in 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens, the Order of Friendship.  Throughout his career at ExxonMobil, he was in charge of managing the company’s Russia account.

Tillerson, who has no foreign policy experience, will be tasked with negotiating with the Russians on such issues as Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, violation of an important arms control treaty, the fight against Daesh, ousting al-Assad, and destroying Syria’s remaining chemical weapons.  Is he up to the challenge?  One thing that is troubling, is that he will travel sans press corps, as he did last month on his Asian trip, and it caused some problems.

Typically the Secretary of State travels with a dozen or so journalists from U.S. mainstream media outlets, but Tillerson, perhaps sharing Trump’s aversion to journalists, traveled to Japan and South Korea with only one, a conservative journalist who had never covered the Secretary of State before.  What came about was that the South Koreans claimed Tillerson shunned a planned dinner, saying he was “too tired” after his meetings.  Now, the reality is that there was no planned dinner and Tillerson did not say that he was too tired, but in absence of any witnesses, the story by the South Koreans spread like wildfire.  It was an embarrassment to Tillerson, and though it was later disputed by the White House, there are some who still believe the story.  One might think that Tillerson would have learned from this, but apparently not, since he plans to take no press with him to Moscow either.

So again, I ask if Tillerson is capable of deriving any positive outcomes from this trip.  Russian leaders are said to have praised Trump’s choice of Tillerson, and that in itself sets off red flags and warning bells for me.   For that matter, what would be considered a positive outcome of these meetings?  While I certainly do not advocate antagonizing Putin unnecessarily, I also do not particularly embrace a joint mission with him on nearly any issue.  The Trump-Putin ties already lead to much speculation, and I suspect there will be data to support at least some of that speculation.  The less tangled the web, the better.  I think that any cooperative efforts between the U.S. and Russia need to be conducted with extreme caution and as arm’s-length transactions.

It is interesting to note that Tillerson will meet only with his direct counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and will not meet at all with his old friend, Putin.  Some see that as a sign of tensions.

Rex Tillerson is certainly not the man I would have chosen for Secretary of State, but since nobody asked me, he is what we are, at least temporarily, stuck with, much as we are stuck with Trump and other of his cabinet/advisory picks.  Let us hope that Tillerson can at a minimum, manage to pull off this trip without starting an international incident.

 

22 thoughts on “Mr. T. Goes To Москва (Russian for Moscow)

  1. I believe Mr T. has been given a poisoned chalice ~ or what we in England call a ‘hospital pass’. I don’t think anyone short of a Winston Churchill or a George Washington can make anything good come out of Russia / China / the Middle East / North Korea right now.
    It does not bode well.
    But, hugs to you in this time of crisis. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Jill,
    The negative in all of this is that Secretary Tillerson is inexperienced and is acting like a fish out of water. He needs the press as a record keeper.
    The other concern is that there is the real potential for a “conflict of interest” situation. He is the one who negotiated on behalf of Exxon a deal worth upwards of $500 billion dollars for oil exploration endeavors in the Arctic area. But this deal has been placed on hold because of US sanctions currently in place against Russia.

    However, on the plus side Mr. Tillerson is more than capable of driving a hard bargain and he actually does know Sergei Lavrov. If he is of a mind to do what is right, in Russia, his word means something and it is possible that something positive could develop.
    We will find out soon, which Rex Tillerson shows up in Moscow.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • We can only hope that he does, in fact, act on behalf of the nation. I think I am more cynical than you, as I hold little hope for anything positive to come out of the current regime, but … we shall see. The other thing is, as Jack Collier said, Tillerson has been handed a “poisoned chalice”. Such interesting times we are living in, my friend. Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure what’s up with that. The first source I saw said it was Russia’s decision, but then another source today said that he would, in fact, meet with Putin. But yes, I think that the reports of Putin being angry over Trump’s Syrian position include a ‘wink-wink’. I don’t trust either of them. But I am just a crusty ol’ cynic … 😉

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  3. We shall see. I personally have an aversion to anyone who has no experience in a role of this magnitude and with baggage. This myth that CEOs of Multi-Nationals are some how imbued with quasi-mystical powers is a dangerous supposition. This only works where you have a person who realises their inexperience and is willing to listen to advisors and learn on the job, then melds that in with their own character and life experience.
    Some kind of professional is the safest bet.(Consider the number of politicians who tried their hands at being generals in the Civil War and caused massive loss of life).
    Let us not forget if there had been a lesser president than FDR, Joseph Kennedy could well have played his part in screwing up WWII.

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    • I fully agree. I also agree with Jack’s comment that Tillerson has been handed a “poisoned chalice” and that the situation at hand would require the diplomatic skills of a Winston Churchill or George Washington … even then it may be a losing battle. Tillerson is highly inexperienced AND perhaps has another agenda, one that is not necessarily in the best interest of the country and its citizens. Many of Trump’s cabinet/advisory pics have been bad, but this one is so critical to global safety that … it is a disaster looking for a place to happen! Others seem more optimistic than I am, so perhaps it is just that I am an untrusting curmudgeon. 🙂 And yes, I well remember Joe Sr.’s role as ambassador just prior to WWII (well, actually I don’t personally remember, as it was a bit before my time). Joe Sr. is the only Kennedy for whom I have zero respect. The man was a bloomin’ idiot! 🙂

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      • Here’s hoping that Mr Tillerson has an ‘Oh My!’ interlude and thus listens to his advisors.
        Joe Sr. was indeed a ‘nasty piece of work’. Thanks to his rabid anti-British attitude I sometimes get the idea that any British historian writing about the war years will take time to veer off from the narrative to take a swipe at him!

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        • I suspect that, had ol’ Joe had his way, we would to this day be saying, “Heil Hitler”. But isn’t it amazing that he produced relatively compassionate, intelligent offspring? Rose was no angel herself, so I’m not sure where John, Bobby, Teddy, Kit and the like got their genes. 😀

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          • Probably a case of ‘In Spite of not Because’..
            Bobby was a most complex character.
            Robert A Caro’s mini-biography in ‘Passage of Power’ (part of his massive work on LBJ) is fascinating. If only Bobby and LBJ hadn’t hated each other with a Grand Passion…..

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            • Yes, I recall that they were mortal enemies, though I don’t recall why. And somewhere in one of my many stacks of books, I have Passage of Power and one or two other volumes, of which I have read some, but never completed. I should add that to my bucket list! So many books, so little time … sigh.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yes, books and books and books.
                It’s quite interesting how it goes.
                Basically Bobby was a very intense man with a very short fuse and intimidating manner; thus once he took a dislike to you, it never went away.
                LBJ was by that time an Old Hand at the game and liked to put youngsters in their place.
                The first time they met Bobby was on McCarthy’s staff. LBJ loathed McCarthy and was patronising and demeaning to Bobby.
                “And the rest is history.”

                Liked by 1 person

                • You truly ARE a walking encyclopedia!!! Thanks! Yes, I can picture it … and I don’t think I realized that Bobby was on McCarthy’s staff at one time … not a feather in his cap, in my opinion!

                  I think from now on, rather than consulting Encyclopedia Britannica when I need to know something, I shall instead go to Encyclopedia Woebegone! 😀

                  Liked by 1 person

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