Sen. Rubio Fails to Pit Tillerson against Putin in Confirmation Hearing

Exxon Mobile CEO Rex W. Tillerson

On Wednesday, Senator Marco Rubio (R – Fla.) tried to pit Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state Rex Tillerson (photo left) against Russia president Vladimir Putin. Senators from both parties are concerned Tillerson, who serves as Exxon Mobil’s chief executive, may use the Cabinet position to strengthen the oil giant’s ties with Russia.

When Rubio asked the businessman whether he considers the Russian leader a “war criminal,” Tillerson dodged the answer.

I would not use that term,

he replied.

Moreover, the president-elect declines to point the finger at Putin for anything, from the Syrian transgressions to the cyber-attacks directed at U.S. Democratic officials. Trump’s team even accused U.S. intelligence community of spreading “fake news” in the wake of a report. The controversial assessment had suggested Russia sponsored the hacks against the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s camp.

Rubio Grills Tillerson over Russian Allegiance

Instead, the NYC billionaire dismissed allegations and had no qualms about nominating Tillerson as the country’s top diplomat. Tillerson has proverbially close ties with Russia’s gas and oil industry. Putin even awarded him the Order of Friendship for his services.

Exxon Mobile boss Rex Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012
Putin and Tillerson shake hands after having reached an agreement on Siberian oil drills in 2012.

In the Senate confirmation hearing, fellow Republican Rubio wanted to ensure Tillerson’s loyalty rests with the United States.

When the Exxon boss declined to call Putin a war criminal, the Senator mentioned some quick facts on AleppoSo, he noted Putin personally ordered a “devastating campaign” against the Syrian city. In the campaign, Russian forces rendered to ruins schools, markets, and other civilian buildings. As a result, thousands of civilians died in the besieged city.

Rubio underlined this was not first such campaign for the Russian president. Putin reportedly ordered Russian airstrikes on the capital city of the Chechen Republic shortly after he became prime minister. As a response to rebel bombings in the region, he used thermobaric weapons and other battlefield weaponry against civilians. In the end, the entire city was destroyed and 300,000 civilians lost their lives, Rubio noted.

Tillerson Doesn’t Lose Temper

Furthermore, the senator called the entire operation a “black flag” mission Russia’s Federal Security Service orchestrated against the country. It is worth noting the FSS is the KGB’s successor and Putin had a long career at the KGB.

Rubio pressed Tillerson into admitting the Russian leader violated the rules of war in the Chechen Republic and Syria. So, this makes him a war criminal. In response, Tillerson described the facts as “very, very serious charges”. Yet he added he needed more data to reach the conclusion.

Still, he acknowledged there is a public record and a classified record about Russian military’s actions in Aleppo. However, before answering such a “serious question,” and advising the president on the issue, he would “want to be fully informed”.

On the other hand, Tillerson’s calm answer came in stark contrast with Rubio’s attitude who adopted an aggressive stance against him throughout the entire encounter. The businessman fended off other sensitive questions. However, in the end, he admitted CIA’s findings on Russian involvement into the U.S. election were a “a fair assessment”.
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