US Secretary of State-designate and former ExxonMobil chief executive, Rex Tillerson, will have a new role as the head of US diplomacy wearing a different hat, facing many challenges going forward, including dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But’s he’s up to the task.
“My friend, Rex. Probably he is one of the most competent, self-assured people I have met in my life,” Fadel Gheit, a senior energy analyst at Oppenheimer in New York told New Europe by phone on December 5. “He is very good man, very determined.”
“But we have to be realistic here. This is a man who spent all his life working for Exxon – all the way from a university graduate to the chairman of the board for the last ten years. He had to put Exxon first. Basically he would do anything to benefit the company,” Gheit said. “He is no longer on this role. He is going to completely change his focus. Now he is going to serve the president and the people of the United States so his priorities in life will change,” Gheit said.
“Right now the next visit that Rex Tillerson will be making to Russia, he is going to be wearing a different uniform. He’s going to have a different mindset. So I’m not sure how he’s going to be able – I’m not saying that I doubt it or I don’t think he’s going to do it – I’m saying it is going to be interesting to watch how he is going to change his role and change the way he discusses issues with Putin because they are no longer going to be on oil leases or whatever. They’re going to be on how’re we going to house Syrian refugees, how’re we going to deal with global terrorism. These are things that cannot be measured in dollars and euros and francs or whatever, these are human rights; these are national security issues. There’re tremendous politics involved. It’s going to be very interesting,” the Oppenheimer analyst said.
“Like I said, I like Rex a lot, I think he’s a very solid person. But I think again he’s probably much more prepared for this role than anyone that I can think of except now we have to see the side of him as a diplomat, the chief American diplomat and see how’s he’s going to deal with heads of state on different issues, different platforms, different environment. That remains to be seen,” Gheit said.
President-elect Donald Trump picked Tillerson to be his secretary of state. Trump has disputed US intelligence agencies’ claims that Russia was behind the massive cyber-hacking of the US presidential campaign, and has expressed a benign attitude about Putin and Russia itself.
But Gheit said Tillerson, who has done oil and gas deals with Putin, needs to deal with the Russian leader from a position of strength and cannot ignore all the signals that Moscow was behind the cyber-attacks against the US.
“A lot of people don’t realise, even Trump himself does not realise this is not a dictatorship. This is a democratic country and at the end of the day there three branches of government in this country: the executive branch and that is the White House, the President; the legislative branch, this is the Congress, the people that are elected directly by their constituents, and obviously the legal side of the business, which is basically the Supreme Court. These are the three separate branches of government,” Gheit said.
“We’re going to see clashes between the Republicans in Congress and Trump because he basically wants to ignore all these signals that Russia is actually interfering, not only in the US, but also in other countries’ political processes. This is the new war. This is going to be Cyber War. There’re not going to be bombs. We leave this to the less developed counties. But the developed countries are going to do this kind of warfare and I’m sure the US will reciprocate; will do exactly what the Russians are doing,” Gheit said.
“A guy like Trump, because he’s an idiot, he wants to do like Putin. He thinks he can get rid of the media; he thinks he can silence people by intimidating them. He’s absolutely wrong. You have to remember that this man, Trump, never worked for anybody. He doesn’t know how to take orders from anybody or even listen to any advice from anybody. He likes to see strong men but unfortunately he cannot copy Putin image here in the US or any other country in Europe,” he concluded.