by Countable | 9.29.17
Thursday the Senate unanimously confirmed Jon Huntsman Jr., former Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador to China, as U.S. Ambassador to Russia.
In July the White House formally announced the nomination and the Kremlin approved it, a usual step for key diplomatic appointments. Though rumored for months prior to his selection by the administration, the choice of Huntsman is interesting because of historic tension between he and President Trump prior to the presidential election.
Sources at Countable with experience of Huntsman say he is not one to suffer fools, as the saying goes, nor to be a sycophant. His confirmation comes amid the swirls of ongoing investigations into the administration’s ties to Russia and efforts by administrative officials to improve relations with this historic rival nation. During his confirmation hearings Huntsman is fielded questions about the many complicated aspects of current U.S.- Russia relations, as well as his perspective on future relations.
Jon Huntsman Jr. was born in California, into a long-standing and prominent Mormon family. He holds a BA in International Politics from the University of Utah. He and his wife, Mary Kaye Cooper, are the parents of seven children, including a daughter adopted from China and another from India.
Huntsman began his political career as a White House staff assistant under President Ronald Reagan. Under President George H. W. Bush he was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. He served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush, guiding the accession of China into the World Trade Organization.
Huntsman left federal politics to serve as the Governor of Utah from 2005-2009. He was considered a "center-right conservative", and maintained high approval ratings throughout his tenure.
President Barack Obama appointed Huntsman U.S. Ambassador to China, noting his experience in the region and proficiency in Mandarin Chinese. He held that post from 2009-2011, when he resigned to pursue the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He lost that nomination to his distant cousin Mitt Romney.
Huntsman was publicly critical of then-candidate Donald Trump during the presidential race when tapes surfaced of Trump bragging about sexually abusing women. He referred to the presidential campaign as a "race to the bottom" and called on Vice-President Mike Pence to step up and top the ticket. Prior to his presidential bid Trump had also been critical of Huntsman as ambassador to China, calling him “weak” and a “lightweight”.
However, during President-elect Trump’s transition they are reported to have mended fences and there was talk of Huntsman as a potential nominee for Secretary of State.
Newsweek reports that the Russian media are split on the potentials in Huntsman’s appointment, though they are in agreement that he will be better than departing Obama-appointee John Tefft. Tefft was repeatedly accused by the Russians of supporting pro-Western revolutions in neighboring countries. Russian media particularly noted Huntsman’s family ties to businesses operating in Russia, wondering how that may affect his positions. Huntsman serves on the boards of Caterpillar, Chevron, Hilton and Ford Motor. His family’s chemical company, the Huntsman Corporation, runs multiple facilities in Russia.
Russian media also noted his position as Chairperson of the Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council. According to an expert, Alexander Dormin, quoted in a pro-Kremlin newspaper, the organization has a "history of investigating Russian military incursions in Ukraine and other research that has reflected Russian foreign policy in a negative light."
In his confirmation hearings Huntsman testified that he does believe U.S. intelligence reports that the Russians intentionally meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
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— Asha Sanaker
(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr / Creative Commons)
Senate confirms Jon Huntsman as Russia ambassador — Washington Post
Written by Countable