There’s an article in the Wall Street Journal about Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil’s departing CEO and the man who Trump has picked for the role of Secretary of State. The whole article is worth reading, but this bit caught my eye:
Mr. Sechin came to like Mr. Tillerson because he was transparent and forceful in his communications—and was one of the few Western executives strong enough to push back against Mr. Sechin, said people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Putin, who had come to trust Mr. Tillerson as a man of his word, blessed the deal and said investment could eventually reach $500 billion.
“Over the years, I think we have earned each other’s respect,” Mr. Tillerson told students at an event in March 2015 at Texas Tech University. When Exxon says “yes,” he told them, the Russians would know that the company would “follow through on that yes. Your commitment means something. And so I think it’s the most important attribute.”
The first point to note is that the Russians respect those who push back against them. Anyone who has spent time among Russians would know this, and they would also know that Russians dislike sycophantic grovelling with a passion. This is a lesson that Shell seems determined not to learn. How many years is it since they caved in over Sakhalin II and have been waiting pathetically for another major project in Russia? It’s coming on a decade now.
Secondly, it appears that an oil executive being transparent in their communications and delivering on promises is a rarity in Russia. That speaks volumes about BP’s Bob Dudley who bungled the Arctic exploration deal with Rosneft by either not bothering to tell their AAR partners about it, or hoping Rosneft or the Russian government would pressure them into going along with it. It also says a lot about Total, who sold their stake in Kharyaga after spending years trying and failing to deliver the Phase 3 expansion. It also confirms what I said at the time of his death, that Christophe de Margerie’s enormous character and penchant for honest, direct talking made him genuinely popular among the Russian leadership.
It’s a bit of a damning statement all told, isn’t it? Except for Mr Tillerson, of course.