WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state Rex Tillerson on Wednesday called Russia a "danger" to the United States and said he favored keeping current U.S. sanctions against Moscow for now.

"Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests," said Tillerson here at his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia," he added.

Tillerson, the Exxon Mobile chief executive who had known Russian President Vladimir Putin since 1990s and was awarded by Putin Russia's Order of Friendship in 2013, was widely known for opposing sanctions against Russia in his corporate life.

However, during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Tillerson said he would like to see remain intact U.S. sanctioned imposed on Moscow for now."

"I would leave things in the status quo so we are able to convey this can go either way," said Tillerson. "I would recommend maintaining the status quo until we are able to engage with Russia and understand better what their intentions are."

Tillerson's confirmation hearing came at a time when the United States and Russia brawled over whether Moscow was involved in cyberattacks which sought to affect the 2016 U.S. election.

Since last October, the U.S. intelligence community had accused Russians of being responsible for the hacking that led to the leaking of damaging material which dogged Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton till the Election Day.

Moscow again on Monday refuted accusations of Russia's involvement in cyberattacks during the U.S. 2016 election, saying that it was a "tiresome witch-hunt."

"We continue to categorically rule out any involvement of Moscow and ...Russian officials and agencies in any hacker attacks," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Unlike his future boss Trump, who had for months questioned and even disparaged U.S. intelligence community's findings that Russia was behind the hacking, Tillerson said on Wednesday it was a "fair assumption" that Putin would have personally ordered the hacking.

Tillerson, 64, is the Texas-based oil company's CEO since 2006. Like Trump, he has no government experience. However, as Exxon's CEO, Tillerson oversees business operations in over 50 countries and has known Putin since 1990s when they first met.

Apart from Tillerson, Trump's nominee to run the U.S. Department of Transportation Elaine Chao also had her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

Chao was Deputy Secretary of Transportation under former Republican President George H.W. Bush, and Labor Secretary under George W. Bush.