Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, broke notably from his boss-to-be on several key global issues early in his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday. In his opening statement, Tillerson stated unequivocally that he did not believe Russia had a valid claim to Crimea, the Ukrainian territory it annexed in 2014. He also sympathized with NATO allies who are "right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia" and said the reports of Russia's use of cyberattacks to interfere in the presidential election were "troubling."
Trump, for his part, has said it would be a "good thing" if the U.S. had a genial relationship with Russia and was reluctant to embrace the conclusions of U.S. intelligence that Russia was responsible for leaking information during the election. Trump has also threatened to pull the U.S. out of multinational agreements like NATO, NAFTA, and the Paris climate agreement, while Tillerson said climate change requires a "global response."
Tillerson is expected to face numerous questions about his ties to Russia, as those critical of his appointment have noted his friendliness with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his past business dealings with the country.