Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, is facing tough questions about his business dealings with Russia and the president-elect’s foreign policy views during his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Like Trump, the Exxon Mobil CEO’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has come under scrutiny and will likely be the focus of both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Tillerson’s wealth and his ability to separate his business interests from the interests of the nation will also likely be a major focus of the hearing. The oil man holds almost $500 million in total assets, some of which are in Russian and Chinese companies.

Image: Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson appears at his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. NBC News

“To those who suggest that anyone who can run a successful business can of course run a government agency do a profound disservice to both,” Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, said in his opening remarks.

Tillerson is an unconventional pick to become the next head of the State Department. But proponents of the businessman say his experience making deals around the globe have prepared him to become one of the nation’s top diplomats.

Tillerson will focus on America’s role as “the only global superpower” and the threats posed by terrorism and China in his opening statements, according to excerpts.

“To achieve the stability that is foundational to peace and security in the 21st century, American leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted,” Tillerson said in prepared remarks.

Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz helped introduce Tillerson, along with former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and lauded the businessman’s experience as an asset for the position.

Image: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation at their meeting outside Moscow, April 16, 2012.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation at their meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, April 16, 2012. Alexei Nikolsky / RIA-Novosi/AP

However, Cardin has delivered a tough series of questions to Tillerson about Exxon’s role in dealings with Russia, why he didn’t mention the Russian cyber hacking in his prepared opening statement and how he will deal with a President elect who ignored the findings of 17 intelligence agencies and may want to make a quick ally of Vladimir Putin.

Cardin said he has “grave concerns” about what Tillerson sees when he looks into Putin’s eyes not because Tillerson is naïve, but because Exxon’s money helped fund Russia’s crushing of opposition voices thru a Putin slush fund.

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http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/secretary-state-nominee-rex-tillerson-starts-confirmation-hearing-n705646