Konstantin Simonov: Rex Tillerson is a businessman, and business is easier to deal with
Moscow. Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was recently confirmed as the 69th secretary of state by a vote of 56 to 43 in the Senate. The opinion of the Congress was far from unanimous. Konstantin Simonov, the head of the National Energy Security Fund, shared his opinion on the new White House assignment with the Oil and Gas Information Agency.
“I believe this assignment is a positive factor for Russia-USA relations. Rex Tillerson is a businessman, and business is easier to deal with. The former ExxonMobil CEO and the company itself operate in many countries. So, he can impartially compare Russian political regime with that in other countries. Despite our reputation, established around the world. Speaking of the oil and gas industry, foreign investors are treated much more loyally here than in the other territories, where ExxonMobil produces oil.
Tillerson understands very well how things are done in Russia, what processes are taking place here. This country is not a book on geography for him. We have always had problems with the politicians, who promoted some mythic values. It has always been easier to find common grounds with the business, which uses a pragmatic approach. Europe, for example, imposes claims on us not because of the standard values of democracy, but merely because the majority of European elite is scared of Russia, fearing that it might hug it to death. Many of such claims are not laid on other countries, even though their regimes are much tougher that in Russia. Our country is really demonized from the view point of its political system and not the values that we represent. Tillerson is quite capable of seeing the picture impartially, clearly and distinctively. And the fact that he has been to Russia, talked to the Russian elite is an advantage, making him independent of different advisers, consultants, and the TV.
At the same time, we need to keep in mind that he will apply his pragmatic approach to the US international policy. He will directly pursue the US’s interests. Exxon is a company, which has always pursued its interests in a very pragmatic way. The same happened in Russia. Exxon had a dispute on taxation with the Russian government concerning the largest asset of the company in RF, Sakhalin-1. “Wonderful relationships” with Putin didn’t stop Tillerson from suing. That makes him just like Trump. They are American and they are going to pursue their interests. We shouldn’t make illusions about this.
A dialogue is possible here. It is just some people mistakenly think something like: “it’s good for us that we have given Tillerson the credit, now he is going to drop all the sanctions”. This is not going to happen. He is a very tough negotiator, on the international scale in particular. Being the company’s head he advanced its interests in the North-East and the South America, and in Venezuela. The new secretary of the state is not a diplomat, who doesn’t say “no”. But generally speaking, we will have to deal with a pragmatic businessman, but not with a babbler, repeating the same thing all over again.