Editor’s note • In the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke wrote a column arguing why U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon M. Huntsman, Utah’s former governor, should resign his diplomatic post immediately. Here is the ambassador’s response. Huntsman is a brother of Tribune owner and Publisher Paul Huntsman.
Dear Mr. Gehrke:
I respect you as an opinion writer and therefore feel compelled to respond. I’ve been around politics long enough to understand the moment we face and the legitimate arguments on all sides. In fact, I regularly advocate in a hostile environment for the very values that allow us to have this conversation. In our republic, your job is key. It is to outrage, occasionally illuminate, and sometimes inspire with provocative, attention-grabbing headlines. My job is a very different one.
As America’s envoy to Russia, I am appointed by the president but confirmed by the Senate. I am charged with representing our country’s interests, which in the case of Russia are complex and often little understood. Popular punditry is ill-suited to describing the acts of courage, dedication and patriotism I regularly witness as chief of mission overseeing one of America’s most sensitive overseas outposts. Our work has been made more difficult over the past year by the loss of hundreds of colleagues through unprecedented expulsions of diplomats and a staff drawdown imposed by the Russian government.
If you have occasion to visit us in Moscow, I will introduce you to hundreds of colleagues, who are the most highly trained in their field with years of experience working in Russia. Representatives of our foreign service, civil service, military and intelligence services have neither the time nor inclination to obsess over politics, though the issues of the day are felt by all. Their focus is on the work that needs to be done to stabilize the most dangerous relationship in the world, one that encompasses nuclear weapons, fighting terrorism, stopping bloodshed in Ukraine, and seeking a settlement of the seemingly intractable Syrian crisis. Their dedication to service to their country is above politics, and it inspires me to the core. It is my standard.
I have taken an unscientific survey among my colleagues, whom you reference, about whether I should resign. The laughter told me everything I needed to know. It also underscores the fragile nature of this moment. As for my sons, active-duty naval officers whom you also call out, I honor their courageous service each time I salute the Marine guards protecting our large embassy compound. Their words when asked if I should resign are unprintable.
Jon M. Huntsman
United States Ambassador to Russia