Secretary of State

Why Rex Tillerson would be a disaster as Secretary of State

FILE -- ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015.

FILE -- ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015.  (REUTERS/Daniel Kramer)

On Tuesday morning, after a weekend of anonymously-sourced winks and nudges, President-elect Trump formally announced that he will nominate ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be the next Secretary of State.

Tillerson’s nomination would be a disaster.

He is a CEO, not an experienced diplomat. Moreover, he is simply too close to Russia and Vladimir Putin to be an effective or credible advocate for American interests around the world.

Tillerson has direct economic interests in Russia having cut multi-billion dollar deals with Putin himself as well as Kremlin confidant Igor Sechin, the head of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. When Sechin isn’t palling around with Tillerson, he keeps busy selling nuclear capabilities to Venezuela or negotiating oil deals with Cuba. Tillerson doesn’t seem to mind, and even appeared with Sechin after he had been formally sanctioned by the United States.

We cannot allow the State Department to be led by a friend and ally of Vladimir Putin and continue the disastrous diplomacy of negotiation and appeasement that has handed Putin his greatest victories.

Tillerson’s loyalty to Russia has not gone unnoticed, and Putin personally awarded him Russia’s “Order of Friendship” in 2013.

Since then, Putin has invaded Ukraine, murdered 298 civilians on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and directed the Russian Air Force to attack aid convoys and hospitals in Syria. Yet Tillerson has remained a staunch and vocal opponent of sanctions against Russia, even as Putin’s body count continues to climb.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Senator John McCain has called Tillerson’s “friendship award from a butcher […] an issue that I think needs to be examined.” Marco Rubio has expressed “serious concerns about his nomination,” since “the next Secretary of State must be someone who views the world with moral clarity.”

And it’s not as if Tillerson would be the first Putin pal in Trump’s cabinet.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor, has been honored by Russian state propaganda network RT, sitting at Putin’s right hand during the awards dinner. Just as Tillerson has opposed sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine, so too has Flynn urged that America “move forward” from Putin’s bloody interventions in Ukraine and Syria.

Together, Tillerson and Flynn are a dangerous pro-Putin combination that threatens to undermine American values, allies, and interests around the world.

Neither Tillerson nor Flynn are likely to take the urgent action needed to successfully deal with the Russians, or apply the pressure that will get Putin to back down. They will not strengthen NATO, finish the missile shield in Europe, arm Ukraine, or aggressively disrupt Putin’s relentless cyberwarfare and propaganda operations.

Indeed, we agree with the bipartisan group of senators calling for a full investigation of Russian hacking and election meddling.

To Rex Tillerson, we say: keep your day job. To Michael Flynn, we say: seek new employment, as your son is now doing.

There are perfectly good candidates for Secretary of State who share our worldview and would perform admirably, such as Mitt Romney and John Bolton.

We don’t need a National Security Advisor or a Secretary of State who believes that we just need to negotiate better with Vladimir Putin.

That’s the same trap that snared George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and enabled Putin’s decade of aggression. We need a National Security Advisor and a Secretary of State who see Russia as among the greatest, if not the greatest threat, our country faces.

We cannot allow the State Department to be led by a friend and ally of Vladimir Putin and continue the disastrous diplomacy of negotiation and appeasement that has handed Putin his greatest victories.

America needs a Secretary of State who will stand up to Putin. Rex Tillerson is not the man for the job. 

Douglas E. Schoen is a Fox News contributor. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. His new book is "Putin's Master Plan". Follow him on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.

 

 

Evan Roth Smith is a senior strategist at Schoen Consulting.

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