Reports: U.S. Ambassador To Moscow Stepping Down
By Todd Prince August 06, 2019
U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman Jr. has resigned his post after just two years amid speculation he could seek to run for political office in his home state of Utah, U.S. media are reporting.
Huntsman sent a letter dated August 5 to President Donald Trump announcing his decision to return to the United States, multiple news outlets reported. The resignation is to be effective on October 3.
U.S. media previously reported that Huntsman -- the former governor of Utah -- wanted his old role back. Trump discussed Huntsman's expected departure with Russian President Vladimir last week by phone.
Huntsman could not be reached for comment, but Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce President Derek Miller told AP that Huntsman was looking for places to live in Utah amid speculation of a possible run for governor.
The State Department did not immediately respond to RFE/RL's request for confirmation of the resignation.
The ambassador's decision comes amid a period of the worst relations between Washington and Moscow since the end of the Cold War, an environment that hampered his ability to achieve results.
"Ambassador Huntsman has served in Russia during a very difficult, frustrating period. Not much to do in U.S.-Russia relations right now," former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said in a tweet.
Huntsman was tapped by Trump to serve as his envoy to Russia in July 2017, a few months after Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller launched his two-year investigation into Kremlin interference in U.S. elections.
Leaks from that investigation generated almost weekly damaging media reports about Russia's role in the 2016 election, casting a huge cloud over bilateral relations and stymieing Trump's efforts to improve relations with the Kremlin, one of his stated foreign-policy objectives.
During Huntsman's posting, Congress pushed through additional sanctions against Russia for its "malign" activities, including allegations of election interference and the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.
The U.S. ambassador was criticized for attending Putin's annual economic forum in St. Petersburg in 2018. He did not attend in 2019 after Russia arrested Michael Calvey, one of the most prominent American investors in the country.
Huntsman's job has only gotten tougher as the Kremlin deals with growing problems at home, including a stagnant economy and rising discontent, William Courtney, a former ambassador to Kazakhstan who is currently an analyst at the Washington-based think tank Rand Corp., told RFE/RL.
Russia has faced a series of protests this year over a host of issues including low living standards and, more recently, the barring of opposition candidates from the elections to the Moscow City Duma.
"This is an exceptionally difficult period in dealing with Moscow and the current internal unrest in Russia makes it even tougher for the Kremlin to focus on diplomacy," Courtney said.
The analyst likened the tense atmosphere today between Washington and Moscow to the early 1980s.
Huntsman's posting in Moscow was his third overseas diplomatic role. He served as ambassador to China in 2009-11 and as ambassador to Singapore in 1992-93.
Prior to moving to Beijing, he served as governor of Utah in 2004-09, winning two elections.
During his long public-service career, he has worked in the administrations of five U.S. presidents and was an unsuccessful candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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