Exxon Mobil stands to regain access to huge reserves of oil if the United States rolls back sanctions on Russia.
U.S. sanctions on Russia have prevented Exxon Mobil from exploring assets covering 63.6 million acres. The prospect of rapprochement between the U.S. and Russia remains speculative, but both President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have said they want to improve relations. The two countries' relationship fell apart after Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then intervened in civil wars in Ukraine and Syria.
Trump over the weekend dismissed the assessment, reached unanimously by 17 U.S. intelligence services, that the Russian government directed cyberattacks on the United States in a bid to "interfere with the U.S. election process." He then waved off a subsequent report citing CIA sources that alleges that intervention was meant to boost his chances of beating Hillary Clinton in November.
On Tuesday, Trump announced he would nominate Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of State.
Tillerson has experience negotiating deals in Russia, and he got to know Putin while chief executive of the world's biggest integrated oil and gas company.
Tillerson has the backing of former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, but GOP lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including John McCain and Marco Rubio, have expressed concerns about Tillerson's relationship with Putin.