A Guide to Rex Tillerson’s Deep Ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is set to meet with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, American Bridge is today releasing a new report highlighting his alarmingly cozy ties to Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials. Tillerson’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of Russia meddling in the 2016 election and Russian complicity in the Assad regime’s use chemical weapons against its own citizens in Syria.

Tillerson has deep ties to Russia including well-documented relationships with Vladimir Putin, who awarded him with the Order of Friendship, and Igor Sechin, the head of the state-owned oil company Rosneft, who is also known as Putin’s right-hand man and “one of the most feared men in Russia.” As CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson also made millions off of deals with the Russian government and when Tillerson was nominated to be Secretary of State, Russia praised Trump’s decision.

Even before Tillerson arrived in Moscow, he was already signaling the Trump’s administration willingness to cave to Putin’s Russia by questioning why the U.S. should “care about the conflict in Ukraine.”

This new report is the latest in ongoing efforts aimed at exposing the Trump Administration’s close ties to Russian officials, oligarchs, gangsters, alleged spy-masters, and Vladimir Putin.  The FBI as well as both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are currently investigating these ties as they relate to Russian hacking of the 2016 election to tilt the results in Trump’s favor.

Secretary Rex Tillerson’s Serious Conflicts Of Interest With Putin And Russia

AWARDED RUSSIAN ORDER OF FRIENDSHIP BY VLADIMIR PUTIN 
Rex Tillerson Was Awarded The Russian Order Of Friendship By Vladimir Putin. According to RIA Novosti, “Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday awarded the managers and employees of a number of the leading energy companies in the world. Awards handed power industry Head of State during his meeting with them in the framework of St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. In accordance with the decree of the president, for his significant contribution to strengthening international cooperation in the oil and gas fields of the Order of Friendship awarded by the authorized manager of Eni, Paolo Scaroni and Chairman of the Board of Directors, General Director of “Exxon Mobil” Rex Tillerson. Also, a number of employees of energy companies thanked the Russian president.” [RIA Novosti, 6/21/13]
TILLERSON ROUTINELY MET WITH VLADIMIR PUTIN AND IGOR SECHIN INCLUDING IN 2016
  • September, 2005: Rex Tillerson Was Among Four American Oil Executives That Met With Vladimir Putin In Washington. [NEFT Trader, 9/23/05]
  • 2008: Rex Tillerson Attended The St. Petersburg Economic Forum. [Politico, 12/10/16]
  • April, 2012: Rex Tillerson Met With Vladimir Putin To Discuss Energy Projects Including Collaboration With Sechin-Run Rosneft. [ITAR-TASS, 4/16/12]
  • June, 2012: Rex Tillerson Attended Vladimir Putin’s 2012 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. [ITAR-TASS, 6/21/12]
  • September, 2012: Rex Tillerman Vladimir Putin, And Igor Sechin  Attended The Signing Of A Contract For A Feasibility Study On Russian Oil Drilling. [Russian Oil Refining Industry, 9/7/12]
  • 2013: Rex Tillerson Attended St. Petersburg International Economic Forum With Putin And Sechin. [Platts Oilgram News, 6/25/13]
  • 2014: Under Tillerson, Exxon Signed An Agreement With Igor I. Sechin, Head Of Russian State Oil Company Rosneft, Weeks After The U.S. Imposed Sanctions On Sechin. [New York Times, 6/10/14]
  • 2016: Igor Sechin Invited Rex Tillerson To The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum With Putin. [IT Manager, 6/16/16]
TILLERSON TOUTED HIS “VERY CLOSE RELATIONSHIP” WITH PUTIN 
2016: Rex Tillerson On His Relationship With Vladimir Putin: “I’ve Known Him Since 1999 And I Have A Very Close Relationship With Him.”  According to U Texas BBA, TILLERSON: “So my relationship with Vladimir Putin, which dates back almost 15 years now– I’ve known him since 1999 and I have a very close relationship with him.  I don’t agree with everything he’s doing.  I don’t agree with everything a lot of leaders are doing.  But he understands that I’m a businessman and I’ve invested a lot of money.  Our company has invested a lot of money in Russia very successfully, our Russian workforce is 98 1/2% Russian national.  They’re magnificent employees.  I mean I just admire them greatly in terms of what they’re able to do and he knows that us being there has caused good things to happen for them.  That we’ve been a positive force.”  [Rex Tillerson at U Texas BBA, 2/18/16]
Tillerson Has A Financial Stake In Lifting Sanctions On Russia And Actively Opposed Sanctions As Detrimental To Exxon 
TILLERSON’S EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION WAS LINKED TO PROJECTS IN RUSSIA
Rex Tillerson Earned Bonus Payouts Connected With Exxon Mobil’s Exploration Of Oil In The Russian Arctic. According to the Guardian, “The boss of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, was paid $33.1m last year including bonus payouts linked to projects including the first well in the Kara Sea, in the Russian Arctic, and the expansion of the Kearl tar sands operations in northern Alberta, Canada.” [Guardian, 5/25/15]
Tillerson’s Retirement Funds Could “Potentially Be Affected By State Department Activities” Including For Example, His Benefitting “From Such Potential Department Actions As The Lifting Of Sanctions On Russia. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Tillerson, who is slated to retire next year, has retirement funds worth tens of millions of dollars, a value that could potentially be affected by State Department activities. For example, he could benefit from such potential department actions as the lifting of sanctions on Russia.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/10/16]
TILLERSON LOBBIED AGAINST SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA 
Rex Tillerson Lobbied Against U.S. Sanctions On Russia After Russia Invaded Ukraine And Seized The Crimean Peninsula. According to the Los Angeles Times, “When Russian forces invaded Ukraine and seized the Crimean peninsula in 2014, Tillerson lobbied against U.S. sanctions because Exxon would lose millions of dollars. The Obama administration, with congressional backing, imposed the sanctions on Russia anyway, and Exxon was forced to abandon projects estimated to have cost it about $1 billion.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/11/16]
2016: TILLERSON SAID EXXON WANTED TO RESUME BUSINESS IN RUSSIA WITHOUT SANCTIONS
2016: Rex Tillerson Said Exxon Was Eager To Get Back To Working With Russia Without Sanctions. According to CNN, “HARLOW: I have to button it up, guys. But on the business point, I mean, there is an important point to make. And this is just fact. There is no opinion. In the fact that Exxon has this huge deal in Russia. That because of the sanctions against Russia got halted, that has cost Exxon about $1 billion so far, according to regulatory filings. Rex Tillerson in March said, we’re very anxious to get back to work there. And that therein lies the questions about what hat you’re wearing as the businessman he is now and if you can completely take that off, be-coming secretary of state.” [CNN, 12/11/16]
EXXON ESTIMATED IT LOST $1 BILLION DUE TO U.S. SANCTIONS
Exxon Said That Because Of U.S. Sanctions It Had Lost A Maximum Of $1 Billion From Its Joint Ventures In Russia.  According to Forbes, “Western sanctions against Russia are costing America’s most powerful company a few hundred million bucks. A billion to be exact. Exxon Mobil XOM -0.54% said in a 10-k filing with the SEC on Wednesday that it lost a maximum of $1 billion from sanctions. In July 2014, the European Union and United States imposed sanctions on the Russian energy sector. The West believes Russia is behind much of the civil unrest in eastern Ukraine. Sanctions began in March 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula that was once part of Ukraine. But the punishment was kicked up a notch in July with sanctions banning American companies from doing business with Russian oil and gas drillers. That hurt a new $723 million joint venture between Exxon and Rosneft , Russia’s largest state owned oil company. This year, the two companies were to start drilling for oil in the Kara Sea, located in the Arctic Circle in northern Russia. ‘In compliance with the sanctions and all general and specific licenses, prohibited activities involving offshore Russia in the Black Sea, Arctic regions, and onshore western Siberia have been wound down,’ the company said in its filing for 2014 activities. Exxon said its ‘maximum exposure’ to loss from these joint ventures was $1 billion.”  [Forbes, 2/27/15]
Tillerson Rose To CEO Of Exxon Through His Partnerships In Russia Which Resulted In Billions For The Russian Government 
TILLERSON’S ROSE TO CEO ON THE STRENGTH OF HIS WORK IN RUSSIA
Private Empire: Tillerson “Had Risen To The Cusp Of The Top Job At Exxonmobil Partly On The Strength Of His Work In Russia.” According to Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, “In early April 2002, Rex Tillerson arrived at the ExxonMobil terminal D at Love Field in Dallas to board a jet to Moscow. Tillerson had turned fifty less than three weeks before. He had risen to the cusp of the top job at ExxonMobil partly on the strength of his work in Russia. The Bush administration’s oil initiative placed ExxonMobil ‘s business dealings in Russia in a new light. There was now the potential, if all went well, for ExxonMobil to acquire substantial equity oil in Russian fields, enough to make a major contribution to the corporation’s reserve replacement requirements. There was no other place on Earth where the corporation enjoyed such full and explicit partnership with the White House in the pursuit of such large oil holdings-the sort of partnership that ExxonMobil executives often claimed they neither wanted nor needed.” [Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, pg. 258, 2012]
2003: Moscow Times Referred To Rex Tillerson As “ExxonMobil’s Point Man For Russia.”  According to Valeria Korchagina of the Moscow Times, “ExxonMobil is also eager to boost production in this country. The company said Tuesday it was finally ready to begin work on Sakhalin-3, which could prove to be the most lucrative of the Sakhalin shelf projects — all of which, apart from the Shell-led Sakhalin-2, are either still in the exploration stage or simply dormant. ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco — the two companies widely rumored to be bidding for a multi-billion-dollar stake in YukosSibneft — won the rights to the Sakhalin-3 bloc 10 years ago, but have been negotiating terms with the government ever since. ExxonMobil’s point man for Russia, Rex Tillerson, said the company has finally decided to give up on getting a production-sharing agreement and will apply for an exploration license under standard legislation.”  [Moscow Times, 9/24/03]
Tillerson’s Positions On Russia Contrast With US Government
2015: TILLERSON ON RUSSIAN INVASION OF CRIMEA: “WE DON’T TAKE SIDES IN ANY GEOPOLITICAL EVENTS”
Rex Tillerson On Russia Conflict In Ukraine: “We Don’t Take Sides In Any Geopolitical Events.” According to National Post’s Financial Post & FP Investing, “Tillerson is scheduled to brief a gathering of investors and analysts on the company’s growth outlook at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Exxon closed the transaction for the additional acreage in May, completing an agreement made 15 months before, said Patrick McGinn, a company spokesman. The May closing was about two months after the Russian annexation of Crimea that spurred U.S. and EU leaders to escalate sanctions. ‘We don’t take sides in any geopolitical events,’ Tillerson said of the conflict in Ukraine a year ago.” [National Post’s Financial Post & FP Investing, 3/4/15]
RUSSIA WELCOMED TILLERSON SERVING AS SECRETARY OF STATE…
Russia Indicated It Would Welcome Tillerson As Secretary Of State. According to CNN, “Russia has already indicated it would welcome Tillerson being named America’s top diplomat. ‘Trump continues to amaze,’ Alexey Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russian parliament, said on Twitter. He said that selecting Tillerson would be a ‘sensation’ and noted he has ‘a lot of experience working with Russia.’” [CNN, 12/11/16]
The Guardian: “The Kremlin Praised The Professionalism Of Rex Tillerson.” According to the Guardian, “The Kremlin has praised the professionalism of Rex Tillerson, thought to be Donald Trump’s leading contender for secretary of state, the ExxonMobil CEO who has forged close ties to Russia.” [The Guardian, 12/12/16]
  • Vladimir Putin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov: Tillerson Has “Had Contacts With Our Representatives More Than Once” And Has Fulfilled His Responsibilities In A “Highly Professional Manner.” According to the Guardian, “‘On account of his work as the head of one of the largest oil companies, he had contacts with our representatives more than once,’ President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday. ‘He fulfills his responsibilities in a highly professional manner.’” [The Guardian, 12/12/16]