When former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said Wednesday at his confirmation that he would push hard against Russia, and that in fact he did not support Crimean annexation, many Russians took it as a stab in the back.
In fact the nominee for Secretary of State, under siege in the U.S. for his allegedly cozy ties with Russia, is now getting it from both sides — with Russians expressing fury at what they feel is his betrayal.
“We’re not likely to ever be friends,” Tillerson told Senators at the hearing, “Our value systems are starkly different.”
He went on saying that he would provide lethal weapons to Ukraine so it can defend itself against Russian forces. And that Russian sanctions are a “powerful tool to deter further actions.”
Russians, who’d thought that Tillerson would help Trump turn the page on U.S.-Russia relations, were openly disappointed, taking their outrage online.
“Tillerson just expressed a perfect set of anti Russian theses,” said one user. “He is no better than Obama,” said another.
Others thought that Tillerson should return Russia’s prestigious “Order of Friendship” medal, which was personally awarded to him by Vladimir Putin.
Верни орден сука pic.twitter.com/KKKCZIODoQ
— ВП (@sranysovok) January 11, 2017
Translation: Give back the medal, asshole
Translation: such times, such heroes
The Kremlin didn’t seem happy with Tillerson’s “Russia statements” either. Putin’s spokesperson Dmitrii Peskov even made a public comment: “This is the position Mr. Tillerson expressed during the Senate hearing. This is his position, and we take it into consideration. Of course, Russia will continue to patiently explain the Crimean matter to him. Of course, we don’t agree with his statements, and we will explain to him our position.”
It is known that Tillerson built his relationship with Putin through business interests in Russia. They reportedly first met in 1999 when Exxon signed a deal with Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft. Exxon and Rosneft made another deal in 2011, but it was later put on ice (literally) because of the U.S. sanctions agains Russia. That time, Tillerson sharply condemned the sanctions, saying that they caused “broad collateral damage.”
Now some Russians, though disappointed, still believe that Tillerson is on their side and that he simply did “Crimean trolling.”
“He wanted to scream out “Crimea is Russian” but couldn’t. He still needs Senate support. But he will say it after he is confirmed,” suggested one Twitter user.
Russian blogger Ruslan Ostashko also commented: “It is not clear if he will be confirmed, but it is clear that Putin gave him his personal manual in trolling. Probably it comes along with the “Order of Friendship.”