Huntsman Expected to Bring Bipartisan Support to Post as Ambassador to Russia

© AP Photo / Matt RourkeJon Huntsman (File)
Jon Huntsman (File) - Sputnik International
New US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman has worked for both Republican and Democratic presidents and won the respect and trust of legislators from both parties in Congress so is expected to bring a non-ideological approach to the position, analysts told Sputnik.

Jon Huntsman (File) - Sputnik International
Ambassador Huntsman’s Pragmatism Can Bring ‘Sanity’ to US-Russia Relations
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The White House announced Huntsman’s appointment on Wednesday, even though he had previously sharply criticized Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. He has also helped lead a family chemicals company that conducts business in Russia


Huntsman has served in every US presidential administration since Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s and was CEO of his family-owned Huntsman Corporation.

"Huntsman is very credible choice for the post," Eurasian Business Coalition Vice President Ralph Winnie told Sputnik on Friday. "He has mutual respect on both sides of the aisle."

Huntsman served as a White House staff assistant for Reagan then became Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce and US Ambassador to Singapore under Reagan’s Republican successor President George H.W. Bush.

In a career of national prominence lasting more than three and a half decades, Huntsman had compiled a spotless record of personal trust and integrity, Winnie stated.

"No scandals and very knowledgeable about international affairs," he said

Huntsman’s record included negotiating China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 and serving as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Beijing, Winnie recalled.

Huntsman is a Republican moderate and pragmatist who will work hard to develop good relations between Washington and Moscow, Winnie explained.

"He has the ability to negotiate effectively," he said.


Jon Huntsman (File) - Sputnik International
Global Business Experience to Help Huntsman as US Ambassador to Russia
Like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the longtime former Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, Huntsman already had experience of doing business in Russia before his latest appointment.

Former Brown University Assistant Professor of Economics Barry Friedman agreed that Huntsman’s extensive business background was likely to be a major advantage for his effectiveness as ambassador to Moscow.

"Is it so unusual to have a business leader appointed as an Ambassador? I think not, and he has already served in that capacity," he said.

Friedman explained that independent wealth often meant a diplomat was more independent and secure and less likely to be swayed by issues of personal profit in his professional duties.

"You don't want someone of modest means and hungry who would perhaps be even more vulnerable to influence," he said.

Allegations that Huntsman might face conflict of issues criticism because of his previous business dealings in Russia did not appear to be a serious problem for his confirmation by the Senate, Friedman noted.

"I don't know if you can ever 100 percent prove the absence of a conflict of interest. You could have assets put in a blind trust, but informal understandings might be reached that reward a person later," he remarked.

While Huntsman was expected to play a constructive role in setting a positive tone in personal diplomacy with Russian officials, the structure of the US government meant he was not likely to be a decisive figure in setting policy toward the Kremlin, Freidman cautioned.

"The Ambassador does not usually make policy between countries: More likely an Ambassador would not have the resources of the National Security Council and the Secretaries of State and Defense when it comes to critical information to advise the President," he noted.

US ambassadors had made a much greater difference in shaping policies towards major powers decades ago before the vast expansion of the National Security Council’s centralizing bureaucracy and the State Department’s increasing micro-management of diplomatic activities, Friedman recalled.

"Maybe Averill Harriman [US ambassador to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union during World War II] But Ambassadors making a critical difference in shaping policies? Increasingly rare," he said

However, Huntsman’s extensive diplomatic and business experience meant he was likely to already enjoy an extended circle of friends and contacts in Moscow that could make him far more effective as a bridge-builder between the two governments, Friedman pointed out.

"To convey useful information it would help to build up some trustworthy high-level connections so the fact that he has had some business operations in Russia before may even be a plus," he suggested.

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