Washington • U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman’s first week in the post was a whirlwind as he landed in Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and later flew back to Washington to sit down with President Donald Trump. He also gave his first public interview since taking the job — to his daughter Abby Huntsman on “Fox and Friends.”
The ambassador resigned from several corporate boards in the week following his Senate confirmation and dropped the sales price on his home near Washington as he relocates to Moscow.
Huntsman told “Fox and Friends” on Friday that he believes there are ways to build on the one-time solid relationship between the United States and Russia as the two countries find themselves in one of the more challenging times in their histories.
“We’ve been hand-in-hand, on the same team in wars before in history,” Huntsman said. “We found ourselves on the same page of certain issues before but today the relationship is at an all-time low. I just have to be very frank about that.”
But he expressed optimism that the countries can find a better stance toward one another and noted that his greatest challenge is “showing that we can achieve results in this relationship that are good for the people of America and good for the people of Russia.”
“The last thing I want to tell the president, the secretary of state or the secretary of defense in the months and years ahead is, ‘We did our very best, sir, but we didn’t get anywhere.’ I think the taxpayers expect more than that,” Huntsman added.
Huntsman met with Trump in the Oval Office on Friday but the meeting was closed to the news media and the White House didn’t offer any comment on what was discussed.
The White House later released a statement saying the president met with Huntsman and his wife, Mary Kaye, “to wish them well as they return to Moscow to represent the United States and work toward improving our relationship with Russia.”
The challenge ahead for Huntsman, despite his hope for a more fruitful relationship, may be difficult, the former Russian ambassador to the United States told Bloomberg News this week, noting that the “anti-Russian” mood of the United States could hamper any breakthrough, at least for another year.
“So far, all we see is a continuation of what was started by [President Barack] Obama,” Sergei Kislyak, now a member of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, told Bloomberg. “I don’t see any major shifts, at least until the midterm elections” in November 2018, amid “great inertia in American political life.”
Huntsman told “Fox and Friends” that he’s ready to take on the assignment, which comes at a time when U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia interfered in the American presidential election, Russia still occupies part of Ukraine and the United States and the Russian federation have issued sanctions against each other, deporting diplomats and seizing properties.
Asked by his daughter why he wants to take the job, Huntsman noted, “The answer is very simple: service is the price you pay for citizenship in the greatest country in the world.”
Huntsman made a swift transition to the ambassadorship after Senate confirmation last week, arriving in Moscow on Monday and presenting his credentials to Putin in a lavish ceremony.
Along the way, Huntsman resigned from several corporate boards he’s been serving on since his ill-fated run for president in the 2012 cycle, including Chevron and Caterpillar.
In moving to Moscow, Huntsman also reduced the sale price of his home in McLean, Va., according to Realtor.com. Huntsman bought the mansion in the Washington suburb for $3.1 million in 2014 and has now set the price at $3.6 million after initially offering it for a half million dollars more.
Editor’s note: Ambassador Jon Huntsman’s brother Paul Huntsman is the owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.