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U.S. Senate Unanimously Confirms Huntsman As Ambassador To Russia


New U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Jon Huntsman, a former U.S. envoy to China and governor of the state of Utah, as ambassador to Russia.

Also on September 28, the Senate confirmed John Bass as ambassador to Afghanistan and Wess Mitchell as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, a job with a portfolio that encompasses the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Huntsman, 57, has extensive diplomatic experience as ambassador to China in 2009-2011, under President Barack Obama, and ambassador to Singapore in 1992-1993, under President George Bush.

The Senate's approval of his nomination on a unanimous voice vote without any prior debate showed the broad bipartisan support in Congress for putting Huntsman in the sensitive Moscow post.

It comes at a time when several congressional committees and the Justice Department are investigating allegations that Russia tried to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Huntsman said in testimony earlier this month that "there is no question, underline no question, that the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election last year.... And Moscow continues to meddle in the democratic processes of our friends and allies."

Huntsman also told lawmakers that he would not hesitate to remind Russian officials that they are accountable for their actions.

But he said Washington has no choice but to interact with Russia in trying to solve global crises in Syria, North Korea, and other areas.

Democratic and Republican senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in unanimously approving Huntsman's nomination earlier this week, praised his qualifications and experience.

Huntsman unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency in 2012, and was a critic of Trump during the campaign last year.

Trump has called for improving Russian-U.S. relations, which have been badly strained by rancor over the election-meddling charges, Moscow's aggression in Ukraine, and other issues.

Russia denies meddling, despite ample evidence, and Trump denies any collusion with Russia by himself or his associates.

Senate approval for Huntsman came on the day that outgoing U.S. ambassador John Tefft left Moscow at the end of his tenure.

In an op-ed article in The Moscow Times on September 28, Tefft wrote that the U.S.-relationship has "reached another low point."

"Americans are concerned and angry about Russian interference in our elections and by the Russian authorities’ refusal to accept their responsibility for it," Tefft wrote.

He wrote that "we need to rebuild trust" and that "the American people want the two most powerful nuclear nations in the world to have a better relationship."

"From the earliest days of this Administration we have said time and again that we would prefer a constructive relationship with Russia based on cooperation on common interests," Tefft wrote. "We remain prepared to try to find a way forward."

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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