Former Utah Governor and brief 2012 Republican primary presidential candidate Jon Huntsman accepted an offer Wednesday from President Donald Trump to serve as United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation, according to NBC News.
Huntsman served as Ambassador to China under former President Barack Obama from 2009 until 2011. The career public servant will take over the post from John Tefft, a career foreign service officer who spent two and a half years at the position.
Huntsman is widely regarded as an expert on south-east Asia policy, but his background with U.S.-Russian relations is not as deep. He currently serves as chairman of the Atlantic Council, which is a group founded to encourage the cooperation between the U.S and European nations following World War II.
A senior administration official told CNN that the president selected Huntsman because he’s “tough.” The seemingly mild-mannered father of seven has talked tough about China in recent years, telling the Wall Street Journal in June that the U.S. should get tougher with China, and gave some examples of specific steps on how to do so.
“There’s section 337 of the Trade Act, which allows you to block at the border things that are a risk to our national security,” Huntsman said, alluding to a way to combat intellectual property theft, a multi-billion dollar problem faced by American companies.
Huntsman is the son of Jon Huntsman Sr., a billionaire businessman and philanthropist. Huntsman Sr. founded the Huntsman corporation, a chemical products and manufacturing behemoth. The multinational corporation operates more than 100 facilities in over 30 countries and 15,000 employees.
Huntsman, like Trump, attended the University of Pennsylvania. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush, and became Ambassador to Singapore in 1992. He served as Deputy United States Trade Representative under President George W. Bush, before becoming Governor of Utah.
The former Ambassador to China will now have access to the U.S. Ambassadors residence in Russia, the Spaso House, a neo-classical mansion located in a quiet, secluded street in a historic Moscow neighborhood.
While he asked Trump to withdraw from the 2016 presidential race after the release of the now well documented 2005 Access Hollywood tape, Huntsman and the president have grown closer together ever since. Rumors swirled in early December that Trump was considering Huntsman for Secretary of State.
Huntsman must be confirmed by the Senate before officially taking over. There is nothing to indicate that Huntsman’s nomination will encounter any issues.
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