After reports surfaced last month that President Donald Trump was becoming “frustrated” with his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, another world leader has expressed regret at honoring the former ExxonMobil CEO. Russian President Vladimir Putin joked during public remarks on Thursday that Tillerson had “fallen in with the wrong company” since being awarded with a Russian state honor for his contribution to Russian-U.S. relations, according to Reuters.
The remark was emblematic of the deterioration in relations between the Trump administration and Putin’s government:
Late last month, the White House ordered the closure of three Russian consulates – purportedly to achieve “parity” between the two countries’ diplomatic missions, saying the missions needed to be closed by Sept. 2. The decision, a response to Russia kicking out dozens of US diplomats earlier in the summer, provoked outrage in Russia.
Addressing a US citizens at a plenary session of an economic forum in Vladivostok, Putin said: “We awarded your compatriot Mr. Tillerson the Order of Friendship, but he seems to have fallen in with the wrong company and to be steering in the other direction,” according to Reuters.
“I hope that the wind of cooperation, friendship and reciprocity will eventually put him on the right path,” Putin added, drawing cheers from the crowd.
Back in 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson, then CEO of Exxon Mobil, the Order of Friendship for his “significant contribution to strengthening cooperation in the energy sector.”
Under Trump, the US has expanded its economic sanctions against Moscow – measures that were passed by Congress over the explicit objections of the administration, which warned that they would imperil a détente between the two world powers. Russia is, of course, still at the center of multiple probes into whether it meddled in the US presidential election. Trump had widely praised Putin during the campaign, saying he wanted to improve ties between Russia and the US to focus on areas of “mutual interest” like fighting ISIS.