Jon Huntsman Nominated To Be Ambassador To Russia

A good choice for an important position.

Jon Huntsman

Late on Tuesday, the White House announced that Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah, Presidential candidate, and Ambassador to both China and Singapore, as the President’s choice to be Ambassador to Russia:

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman will be nominated as the U.S. ambassador to Russia, the White House announced Tuesday, ending months of delay in formalizing the appointment amid deteriorating relations between the two countries.

The White House confirmed in March that it would name the former Republican presidential contender and U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama to the Russia post. But the White House had delayed formally naming Huntsman and sending the nomination to the Senate for confirmation as the United States waited for the Kremlin to approve his selection.

The nomination comes amid what could be a thaw in U.S. relations with Russia following the first face-to-face meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany this month. The Trump administration is also under fire amid a widening investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the possible collusion of Trump campaign associates.


Huntsman’s nomination was announced one day after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met at the State Department with Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon. They discussed what the State Department characterized as “irritants” in the U.S.-Russia relationship, including Moscow’s demand that the United States return two Russian-owned mansions in Maryland and New York that were seized in December in part as a response to Russian meddling in last year’s election.

White House officials have said that the United States is open to returning the sites to Russia, although the Obama administration had said they were being used for espionage.

The Kremlin approved Huntsman’s appointment Monday night about the same time that the United States approved Russian politician Anatoly Antonov to serve as Russia’s ambassador in Washington, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly about pending appointments. Ambassadors must be approved by the governments of the countries that will host them.

Huntsman’s name was first floated for this position back in March, but for reasons that the Trump Administration has not disclosed and which have not been previously discussed, there was no formal announcement of the appointment for some four months. Since Huntsman has been vetted for Ambassadorial posts before, and was also briefly on the short list for to be Deputy Secretary of State according to some post-election reports, it’s hard to believe that there was anything problematic in his vetting. Instead, the delay appears to be attributable to the generally lackadaisical approach that the Trump Administration has had toward filling top Executive Branch positions. As I noted earlier this year, this has been especially true with regard to important Ambassadorial posts, but it also applies to other positions. A recent Washington Post review, for example, found that Trump has formally nominated just 187 of 560 nominations to key Administration positions, a statistic which establishes as a lie Trump’s frequent claim that Senate Democrats are holding up Senate confirmation of his appointees.

All that being said, Huntsman seems to be a fine choice for this position. As previously noted, he has served in a variety of diplomatic positions over the years, most notably as Ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and Ambassador to China under President Obama. He also served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush. By all accounts, he served quite well in those positions according to all accounts that I’ve seen. Additionally, as I noted previously, our relationship with Russia is as important today as it has been in the past and it makes sense to have a voice representing the United States that has real diplomatic experience, as well as the judgment needed for someone in this position. It’s also helpful that Huntsman was not part of Trump’s inner circle which means that he’s unlikely to be untainted by the issues surrounding Trump and Russia right now. Finally, since the initial reaction to the suggestion of Huntsman for this position three months ago was generally well received, so I suspect he will have a relatively easy confirmation process. All in all, this was a good choice by the President, I’m glad he finally got around to formally announcing it.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Argon says:

    … only to be undermined by the administration in 3… 2… 1!

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:
  3. MarkedMan says:

    Huntsman was well respected for his work in China

  4. al-Alameda says:

    Huntsman is a skilled Republican, so why would he take this job?

  5. CSK says:


    Well, it gets him out of the country, doesn’t it?

  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Jeff Sessions, renowned racist, has just made it easier for cops to steal from you. The new Justice Department policy on civil-asset forfeiture announced today, which is probably unconstitutional, allows cops to seize your assets without even so much as evidence of a crime. The Federal policy allows Cops to skirt State laws, which are usually more onerous.
    Small Government? Due process? Welcome to Trumpistan.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I am so, so, so sorry to hear this. John Huntsman was a fine and respectable man of honor and integrity.

    It’s also helpful that Huntsman was not part of Trump’s inner circle which means that he’s unlikely to be untainted by the issues surrounding Trump and Russia right now

    Exactly right Doug, The mere act of accepting this position taints him.

    On the slightly more serious side, Huntsman’s well earned reputation for honorable service and integrity. will be in tatters in 3… 2… 1….

    Really, how long before tRump throws him under the Russian bus?

  8. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Snowflake tweeted this in 2012:

    China did a major number on us during the reign of @JonHuntsman. He was easy pickens!

    So I guess we can assume Don the Con welcomes the opportunity for Russia to do a major number on us during this “reign” of @JonHuntsman.

  9. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    I wonder if Trump is fully aware that this announcement was even made? Today he’s working on a really, really important issue: forcing the states to turn over that voter information he wants. He has to prove that 3 million illegals voted for Hillary.

    By the way, is Easy Pickens related to Slim Pickens?

  10. Mister Bluster says:

    I went to grade school with their snotty brother Knows Pickens.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:
  12. James Joyner says:

    When I saw this, I thought it was some glitch in the posting system, since I thought Huntsman was not only nominated months ago but actually serving in the job!

  13. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I have a hard time understanding what horrible thing Huntsman could have done to deserve this.

  14. CSK says:

    OT, but John McCain’s office has just announced that he has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

  15. Barry says:

    Doug: “It’s also helpful that Huntsman was not part of Trump’s inner circle which means that he’s unlikely to be untainted by the issues surrounding Trump and Russia right now. ”

    He has signed up for Ground Zero of the Great Russian Sh*tshow.

  16. CSK says:


    Gioblastoma. Treatable, but not curable. It’s awful; I had a friend who died of this.

  17. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Wonder how these a-holes feel right now…

  18. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Well, they had their wish come true, pretty much, didn’t they? A-holes indeed.

  19. CSK says:

    And…Trump just threw Sessions under the bus, big time, in an interview with the NYTimes. You know, the Fake Media he always bitching about.

  20. Franklin says:

    I dunno. Nikki Haley turned into a complete nutjob after getting nominated by Trump, I hope Huntsman doesn’t follow the same path.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    He wants Sessions to quit so he can hire someone even more servile.

    I think we now know what that Putin conversation was about: move it along, bitch or I’ll stop the cash flow. I suspect without Russian mob money Trump is broker than I am on April 16 every year. Trump’s business is a house of cards, and he’ll do literally anything – anything – not to be knocked off his ‘rich boy’ pedestal. So…

    1) We sell out our anti-Assad rebels.
    2) We close down State Department’s cyber unit.
    3) Trump threatens Mueller and throws Sessions out of the window.

    That is not “I’d like to get along with Putin,” that is “Putin owns my ass.”

  22. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The Times interview is, in part at least, on video, so Trump and the Trumpkins can’t claim it’s fake news. Big Donny whines non-stop about how if he’d known Sessions was going to recuse himself from the Russia business, he wouldn’t have hired him.

    Of course Trump is Putin’s bitch. And he’s scared. I almost–almost–feel sorry for Melania, having to deal with that every night.

  23. James Pearce says:

    Always an ambassador….

  24. grumpy realist says:

    Huntsman–who from all that I’ve heard is a man of integrity–may have decided that it is his duty to take the ambassadorship and do the best he can.

    I’m not going to start lobbying shoes at him until Don the Con asks him to do something unethical and he goes along with it.