Rex Tillerson isn't just any executive. He's probably the most internationally sophisticated CEO in the country. He has had to be, because oil is located in places that require delicate negotiations that few other CEOs ever have to deal with.
He's not alone. The major oil companies have all had to do so, particularly with Russia, because Russia has so much oil.
Nobody wants to have to deal with Russia, but if you are going to, you want to be able to do it like Rex Tillerson. He is able to get what Exxon Mobil (XOM) wants without compromising the integrity of the company.
I have found that Exxon is pretty much as transparent as it can be on the negotiations with Russia -- in part because Tillerson has always tried to disclose as much as he can about the talks. Of course, like all negotiations, the notion of simply putting out exactly what was said would kill the negotiations.
Is Tillerson therefor the right man for the job?
I do not think there is any business executive who knows more about Russia. I do think that if previous negotiations with Putin or anyone in Russia matter, then Tillerson will be able to put those skills to work.
However, if you think that TIllerson is compromised by previous deals then, nope, he's the wrong man.
My point? Tillerson is a highly unusual executive who has a 50-year view of where Exxon has to be. If you don't deal with Russia you can't be a fiduciary and you can't maintain that 50-year view. He obviously didn't expect that he would be up for the Secretary of State job when he negotiated with leaders of multiple countries that we have had contentious relationships with. I, personally, believe that Tillerson's fiduciary duty, now that he is selling all of his stock, is to represent the United States. I do not understand why he would do otherwise.
So a sophisticated CEO who wants to serve his country with great knowledge of countries with current leaders that have often been at odds with our nation? I think it's valuable. Non-traditional, but valuable, especially when you consider the need for tough negotiations with the Russians. That's what he has done for Exxon.
I think he can do it for his country.