There are several possible explanations for Donald Trump’s frequently professed deep admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin: His esteem for authoritarian dictators as men who get things done; his desire to embarrass President Obama by claiming Putin is a better leader; his pandering to alt-right voters who admire Putin as they pine for global white nationalist domination; the possible desire to protect or expand business interests tied to Russia; the ties of Trump advisors like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn to Russian interests; the strong evidence that Putin used cyber-hacking and fake news disinformation to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton; and, as newly reported, the unconfirmed possibility that Putin holds compromising personal and financial information about Trump. Whatever the true reasons, Trump’s love of Putin, who engages in blatant human rights abuses at home and dangerous aggression outside his borders, threatens American interests and values. The United States should continue to seek cooperation with Russia where doing so makes us stronger, just as we did during the Cold War, but we cannot sacrifice our security to the kind of improper considerations that seem to motivate Trump. Given Trump’s troubling embrace of Putin, the U.S. Senate must demand a Secretary of State who will approach Russia in a clear-eyed, principled way, who will push back on Trump’s bizarre Putin love. This morning’s opening of his confirmation hearing underscored that Trump’s nominee, Rex Tillerson, is not that person. Tillerson has spent more time with Putin than almost any other American, and he has developed close ties with the Russian president. Those ties are based on commerce — on his multinational company and Russia making each other wealthier — rather than on protecting U.S. interests. In 2011, Tillerson reached a major deal with Russia — not a breakthrough for peace or justice but instead an agreement between ExxonMobil and Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, to explore and drill for oil in the Siberian arctic, a deal worth tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. In pursuing the deal, Tillerson has developedstrong personal ties to Rosneft head Igor Sechin, an ex-KGB agent close to Putin. In 2012, Russia awarded Tillerson one of its highest honors, the Order of Friendship decoration. More: Trump Loves Putin. We Need A Secretary Of State Who Doesn’t. Wow, really scary stuff. Tillerson is obviously also a Putin lover.