Trump's huntsman goes to Russia: What to expect from future US Ambassador Jon Huntsman?

Author : News Agency

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American President Donald Trump nominated ex-governor of Utah and US Ambassador to Singapore and China Jon Huntsman to the post of US Ambassador to Russia. In the near future, his candidacy should receive approval in Congress. We know who he is and what to expect from his work in Moscow
20:21, 24 July 2017

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Who is Mr. Huntsman?

The biography of the 57-year-old likely ambassador is very specific. The son of a large entrepreneur, he once abandoned school in order to play keyboards in the Wizard rock band. Later, he also dropped out of the university, after which for two years he was a Mormon missionary in Taiwan. In 1987, Huntsman at last graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a bachelor's degree in international politics.

The career of civil servant Huntsman began in 1983 in the administration of Ronald Reagan as a staff assistant in the White House. At the same time he worked as a manager in the firm of his father. Then he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Department of International Trade. After that, he held the post of Deputy Assistant to the Minister of Trade. He was in charge of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

In 1992-1993, Jon Huntsman was the US ambassador to Singapore. He became the youngest American ambassador in the last 100 years. In 2000, Huntsman became deputy sales representative of the United States in the administration of George W. Bush.

In 2003-2004, the diplomat prepared to build a broader political career and during 2005-2009 he held the post of governor of Utah. On August 7, 2009, Jon Huntsman was confirmed as the US ambassador to China (this was already in times of Barack Obama’s presidency). In 2011, he resigned (he attended an anti-government rally in China, and he was accused of trying to influence Chinese politics) and returned to the US to run for president from the Republicans. After receiving the third place in the primaries in New Hampshire, he left the race and supported Mitt Romney.

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Since 2014, Jon Huntsman has been the Head of Atlantic Council, an analytical organization that deals with relations between the US and Europe. He was included to Boards of Directors of several companies, among which, in particular, are Hilton and Ford Motor.

Relations between Huntsman and Trump remain rather peculiar. In 2016, Huntsman supported the candidacy of Trump during the election, but after the publication of the scandalous audio record of the future president's talk about women, he not only criticized the billionaire, but suggested that he would be replaced by Mike Pence.

In addition, six years ago, in 2011, a scandalous billionaire called Huntsman "lightweight" when he opposed any trade wars with China.

It is also interesting that Trump chooses people from big business for diplomatic work. Rex Tillerson, Jared Kushner, Jon Huntsman - probably, the list will be continued in the future.

Is Huntsman russophobe?

Jon Huntsman does not specialize in Russia; he even did not express publicly views on the topic of US-Russian relations. He does not speak Russian. This is different from the current ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, specializing in Eastern Europe, and the past US representative Michael McFaul, a specialist on Russia.

The Vox found only two notable statements about Russia made by Huntsman – one on the reset of Russian-American relations conducted by Obama’s administration and another - on the war in Syria. Huntsman said that the reset was erroneous, because it based on the assumptions that Russia is "our partner more than it really is," "more democratic than it really is," "better observes human rights than it really does." In addition, Huntsman suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin outplayed Barack Obama in the Middle East by supporting Bashar Assad.

Huntsman is considered a supporter of a hard line against Russia. However, as Russian media reported in March, he is not perceived as a russophobe in the Federation Council. First of all, because he has the necessary qualifications for a consecutive diplomat. The Russian Federation believes that he is able to work with difficult partners that are important to the United States, and Russia is just such a partner at the moment: in a bilateral relationship, great caution is needed; frustrations and scandals should be avoided. Therefore, it is very likely that Huntsman will not commit any harsh and outrageous steps in Russia.

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In addition, according to Russian experts, Huntsman was not noticed making any pro-Russian statements for the reason that his family has business interests in Russia. His father founded a number of chemical enterprises in the Russian territory, and one of them, ZAO Huntsman-NMG, is still working, selling various polymers in Russia.

In addition, Jon Huntsman has business interests in Russia as a member of the Ford Company Board of Directors, which has its own production in this country, as well as Caterpillar, which has a large plant near St. Petersburg.

It's no secret that Huntsman's appointment took place at a very difficult time, and it's not just about complicated Russian-American relations. In 2018, presidential elections will be held in Russia and tension in relations can only intensify. Accordingly, the future US ambassador to Russia, one way or another, will also take part in this.

Consequences for Ukraine

The companies affiliated with Huntsman were the founders of several large assets in Ukraine. In particular, Huntsman International Corporation, registered in Utah, in the early 2000s was a co-owner of the Ukrainian-American Huntsman-Stirol Company. The business partner of the US company in this enterprise was the Horlivka Stirol Concern, which at that time was owned by a US citizen of Ukrainian origin Alex Rovt.

In 2010 this Stirol, which production facilities are located in the occupied territory of Donbas, was bought by the Ostchem Group of Dmytro Firtash. At the moment, the core business of Jon Huntsman in Ukraine is represented by the Huntsman-NMG LLC in Kyiv - this is the company through which Huntsman International Corporation sells chemical products and materials of the Russian Huntsman-NMG (Obninsk city).

As for the political prospects of appointing Huntsman to the post of ambassador, then, according to the head of the Center for Russian Studies Volodymyr Ogryzko, Trump's choice is not accidental, because he needs a very tough person in this position.

Ogryzko predicts that there will be no unexpected compromises with the Russian Federation in the US position. If the stance against Russia is tough enough as it has been so far - "first security, and then political decisions, first of all fulfilling all obligations, and then lifting sanctions - then this will be the best help for Ukraine."

In 2014, Huntsman met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the Atlantic Council and even awarded him the Global Citizen Award with the phrase "for activities for the benefit of free and democratic Ukraine and contribution to the development of free and peaceful Europe."

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