Jon Huntsman Jr. says it’s imperative that the U.S. and Russia repair their bilateral relationship — and the sooner the better. The newly tapped ambassador to Russia spoke during a ceremonial swearing-in at the Utah State Capitol on Saturday.
Huntsman said if there’s one key ingredient to replenishing the U.S.-Russia relationship, it’s trust.
“You see, there currently exists a low level of trusts between our governments,” he said. “Our presidents have both expressed a desire to see an improvement in our relations. And this will be my primary goal as ambassador going forward."
Huntsman spoke after being introduced by Gov. Gary Herbert at a ceremony attended by a who’s who of Utah politics.
Huntsman’s family, Sen. Orrin Hatch and high-ranking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints all gathered in the capitol’s Gold Room. Many in attendance had served under Huntsman during his tenure as Utah governor from 2005 through 2009.
Huntsman said a major sticking point that will need to be addressed right away is Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.
“The road to improved relations leads through Ukraine,” he said. “Addressing the situation in Ukraine and doing so in a way that restores sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders is an essential first step to restoring Ukraine.”
He said doing so will allow the U.S. to work with Russia on foreign policy challenges in North Korea and Syria.
Huntsman met President Vladimir Putin last week and plans to be back in Moscow this Thursday to begin his diplomatic post.
“Trust is the fuel that drives people to work together,” he said. “It is absolutely indispensable in the U.S.-Russia relationship that it be repaired.”
Huntsman’s father, Jon Huntsman Sr., said his son is the right man for the job after previously serving as ambassador to Singapore and China.
“He probably understands diplomacy and international affairs better than anyone in America today,” he told reporters after the ceremony.
Huntsman Sr. recalled when he was an aide to President Richard Nixon, a then-adolescent Jon Huntsman Jr. would come to the White House on the weekends and talk to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about world affairs.
Asked if he was concerned about his son’s safety in Russia or his relationship with President Trump amid some turnover in the administration, Huntsman Sr. said absolutely not.
“I think President Trump is doing an outstanding job in the area of international relations,” he said. “And I think they’ll have a wonderful relationship.”
— Julia Ritchey (@juliaritchey) October 7, 2017