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Jon Huntsman Jr: 'Low Levels Of Trust' Between US, Russia

Julia Ritchey / KUER
Jon Huntsman Jr. speaks about U.S.-Russia frictions during a ceremony at the Utah State Capitol on Oct. 7.

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.”

Credit Julia Ritchey / KUER
Jon Huntsman Sr. talks to reporters after watching his son, Jon Huntsman Jr., being sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Russia at the Utah State Capitol.

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 joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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