U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state -- the top cabinet position.
Tillerson currently serves as Chief Executive Officer at the Texas-based oil company ExxonMobil.
In a statement, Trump said the businessman’s experience operating a major company will help him lead the State Department.
“His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for secretary of state. He will promote regional stability and focus on the core national security interests of the United States,” Trump said.
Tillerson has no experience as a diplomat, but his company has business relationships with governments in many countries, including Russia.
Trump says those contacts should serve Tillerson well as America’s top diplomat. In Trump’s words, “a great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia.”
Tillerson has reached major agreements with Russian companies for the exploration and production of oil and natural gas. These deals led Russian President Vladimir Putin to give Tillerson his country’s Order of Friendship in 2013.
Earlier this year, Tillerson said he has known Putin since 1999 and has a “very close relationship with him.”
The ExxonMobil chief has strongly criticized American limits on trade with Russia. These measures have forced him to cancel some projects that would have been profitable for his company.
Political observers say Tillerson’s ties with Russian officials may cause some members of the United States Senate to question his appointment. While American presidents can appoint members of their cabinet, the Senate must approve the nominees before they can serve. The Constitution gives the Senate this power.
On Sunday, John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tillerson’s relationship with Putin is “a matter of concern.”
Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a Tweet about Tillerson: “Being a friend of Vladimir is not an attribute I am hoping for from a secretary of state.”
Relations between the United States and Russia have worsened in the past week after publication of intelligence findings. U.S. intelligence agencies found that Russia was involved in the theft of emails from Democratic Party officials. Some political observers believe the theft influenced the 2016 presidential election.
Trump has said repeatedly that he wants to improve relations with Moscow.
On Monday, Russia praised Tillerson. It said he is “highly professional.”
I’m Ashley Thompson.
VOA’s Zlatica Hoke and Steve Herman reported this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their reports for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
tenacity – n. the act of being very determined to do something
geopolitics – n. the study of how geography and economics have an influence on politics and on the relations between nations
regional – adj. parts of the world
focus – v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific
core – n. the most important or basic part of something
attribute – n. a quality or feature that someone or something has