Donald Trump nominates oil boss Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State

ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson. Credit: Reuters

So now it's official. An oilman is to become America's top diplomat. It's another stunning example of Donald Trump turning Washington upside down.

Rex Tillerson - the chief executive of one of the world's largest and most influential companies, ExxonMobil - has been nominated to become the next US Secretary of State.

Even the announcement was conducted like The Apprentice. There was a lineup of eager candidates, the bright camera lights, interviews with Trump at the head of the table, and then the ritual humiliation for all the contenders, except for the eventual victor.

Rex Tillerson won despite the fact - or more likely, because - he has never held a government or diplomatic job in his life. His business is pure deal-making and that is undoubtedly his appeal to Trump.

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But there is a question beyond his political inexperience that may haunt Tillerson and dominate the Senate confirmation process. For the Exxon CEO has deep ties to Russia and to President Putin. He even received an award from the Kremlin.

Rexx Tillerson and then Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin pictured in 2011. Credit: Reuters

Just think about this: On the very day that Russian-backed Syrian forces are reportedly massacring civilians in Aleppo, a man in favour of abandoning Kremlin sanction is nominated as US Secretary of State. No wonder some Senators were too stunned to eat their breakfast on Tuesday morning.

Tillerson's appointment - assuming he is confirmed - may indicate what was once unthinkable: That a pro-Russian tilt is genuinely underway in American foreign policy.