Trump ambassador promises Russia he'll be 'practical'

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo: Pavel Golovkin/AP)

WASHINGTON — Freshly arrived in Russia, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman is promising his hosts to be “practical” when it comes to relations damaged by Moscow’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and by alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

“It’s no secret we’re at a low point in the U.S.-Russian relationship,” Huntsman says in a video designed to introduce himself to the people of Russia and posted a week ago on the official website of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

As governor of Utah, as a successful entrepreneur, and as President Barack Obama’s first ambassador to China, “I’ve always made a career out of finding practical solutions to tough problems,” Huntsman says in the video.

“I look forward to engaging Russia’s leaders to find practical solutions to the many challenges that face today’s relationship,” Huntsman continues. “Where we don’t agree, I’ll represent America’s values and interests with straight talk and I’ll listen with respect and an open mind.”

The promise to be “practical” echoes Trump’s own outlook towards Russia — his eagerness to find common ground despite the unprecedented finding from the U.S. intelligence community that Moscow tried to shape the outcome of the 2016.

Videos like the one recorded by Huntsman, who easily won confirmation in late September, are common tools for U.S. ambassadors to introduce themselves to the countries where they’re posted. State Department officials have told Yahoo News that local television outlets sometimes run clips when a new ambassador presents his or her credentials.

Bill Hagerty, the envoy to Japan, used his video to say he’d promote U.S. culture and to promise an “ironclad” commitment to that ally’s security — an important message at a time of escalating tensions with nearby North Korea. (Hagerty’s video, shot at his home in Nashville, also includes a photograph of the future diplomat in Japan more than 20 years ago).

The video from former Sen. Scott Brown, now ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, includes shots of Brown’s snow-covered home, his collection of guitars and remarkably candid talk about his difficult upbringing.

“My mom and dad have been divorced four times each, and I lived in 17 houses by the time I was 18,” Brown says, before referring to struggles with “drunken stepfathers, a lot of physical abuse in the family” and economic hardships.

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