Former U.S. ambassador Jon Huntsman decries sanctions America places on Russia

(Alexander Zemlianichenko | AP Photo) In this Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 file photo, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. attends an opening ceremony of the stone of the memorial to members of the resistance at Nazis concentration camps during WWII, at the Jewish Museum and Center for Tolerance in Moscow, Russia. The U.S. and British embassies in Moscow said Wednesday July 17, 2019, that Russia has refused visas to teachers at a school that educates diplomats' children.

Washington • Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman suggests more carrots and fewer sticks in America’s approach to Moscow.

Days removed from his post as the United States’ top diplomat to Russia, Huntsman offered his thoughts on America’s foreign policy toward a chief rival, writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal asserting that sanctions imposed by both countries decrease the ability to mend relationships.

“If we allow fear to dictate our approach, we may never find or even consider policies that more effectively advance our national interests, improve the bilateral relationship and make the world safer,” Huntsman wrote.

Freed from his role as President Donald Trump's envoy to Russia, Huntsman wrote that the sanctions are not the answer to the challenges between the two superpowers and should be used more sparingly.

“In the U.S., sanctions have become our go-to foreign policy tool to admonish misbehavior,” Huntsman said. “We have placed sanctions on Russia for a host of actions – its bad behavior toward its neighbors, its meddling in our elections, its role in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England, and so on. It’s easy to initiate sanctions, but it has become politically perilous to discuss removing them. By last count, there are almost 850 Russian individuals and entities that have been designated under various sanctions authorities with little or no analysis measuring their efficacy.”

Huntsman, a former Utah governor and seasoned diplomat, has shied away from criticizing Trump's policies toward Russia, though is speaking out now that he isn't restrained by his position.

Huntsman said in his Wall Street Journal piece that sanctioning Russia – America has expelled hundreds of Russian diplomats and closed one of the country’s consulates, prompting a parallel response from Russia – only feeds into President Vladimir Putin’s charges of a Western assault on Russia.

“My embassy colleagues and I heard the same refrain over and over – that in some cases U.S. sanctions are having the opposite of their intended effect, forcing capital back to Russia, buoying Russian domestic sectors and disadvantaging U.S. businesses seeking to gain a strategic market foothold,” Huntsman wrote.

Huntsman, who may be considering a run for governor of Utah again, said the United States could find a renewed relationship with Russia with a different strategy.

“Smart diplomacy thus far has managed to keep us from war, but I worry the current estrangement will limit our options for strategic engagement in the years ahead,” Huntsman wrote. “Trust doesn’t come easily in this relationship and must be earned over time. But we have to start somewhere.”

Editor’s note: Paul Huntsman, a brother of former ambassador Jon Huntsman, is publisher and owner of The Salt Lake Tribune.