Jon Huntsman Jr. accepting offer to become U.S. ambassador to Russia

Posted at 3:23 PM, Mar 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-08 23:46:47-05

Senator Orrin Hatch is confirming former Utah Governor John Huntsman Jr. is President Donald Trump’s pick to become the U.S. Ambassador to Russia.

In a statement Senator Hatch wrote:

“The President has made a wise choice in selecting Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. to serve as the next United States Ambassador to Russia. He possesses the savvy, grace, and tact characteristic of our nation’s top diplomats, and I am confident he will continue serving our country well as the next ambassador to Russia.”

Huntsman served as the Ambassador to Singapore in the George H.W. Bush administration and the ambassador to China in the Obama administration. Russia could prove to be an even greater challenge.

"Putin is still a KGB operative, he's going to know how Huntsman is from top to bottom. He's going to figure out what it is in Huntsman's background that can either be exploited negatively or positively,” said Professor Frederick H. White from the UVU Department of Languages and Cultures.

White has lived in Russia off and on throughout his adult life. He was in Russia when Boris Yeltsin stepped down in 1999, handing over power of the government to Putin.

"Since 2008, Putin re-organized his military to be what he called ready for 21st century warfare,” White said.

Disinformation, hacking, and using non-governmental organizations to influence elections. It’s what White describes as Russia's new military. He’s not alone in watching the military change.

"This is the way that Russia is going to compete going forward,” said Ryan Vogel, the Director of National Security Studies at UVU.

Vogel believes Huntsman is an ideal pick with the experience to have a calm and steady hand in Moscow.

"If we can say that we got through these next four years without a major escalation against Russia, that will be a success,” Vogel said.

Much of that success may now land on Huntsmans’ shoulders as the tip of the spear in U.S. and Russia relations.