SALT LAKE CITY — Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. says he will encourage travel between Russia and the United States and promote exchange programs between the two countries.
The former Utah governor also vowed to look at cultural diplomacy and support the work of American business in Russia, noting that’s what brought him to the country 30 years ago.
Huntsman made the comments in a minutelong excerpt of a town hall meeting posted Friday on the U.S. Embassy's Facebook page.
The new U.S. Ambassador to Russia arrived in Moscow on Oct. 12, about two weeks after the Senate unanimously confirmed him to the key diplomatic post.
In August, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced that it would temporarily stop issuing all nonimmigrant visas in Russia and severely curtail visa operations, likely meaning delays for hundreds of thousands of Russians who apply for those visas to the U.S. each year.
The decision came after Russia demanded that the U.S. mission in the country slash its staff from more than 1,200 employees to 455, the same size as the Russian diplomatic mission in the United States.
In the speech, Huntsman promises to speak "plainly and honest" about the differences between the two countries, and project American values and interests in all he does.
"But I will do it in a way that is respectful and in a way that always shows my sense of respect and deference to a great culture, great traditions and great people who reside here in Russia," he said.
Upon arriving in Moscow, Huntsman posted a brief video on the U.S. Embassy website introducing himself, even throwing out a couple of phrases in Russian, a language he doesn't speak.
As a governor, ambassador and businessman, Huntsman has made a career of finding practical solutions to tough problems.
"It's no secret we're at a low point in the U.S.-Russian relationship. I look forward to engaging Russia's leaders to find practical solutions to the many challenges that face today's relationship," he said.
Huntsman said he would represent America's values with "straight talk" and listen with an open mind. He said he looks forward to meeting Russians from all walks of life.
Russian Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev met with Huntsman on Friday to discuss improving bilateral cooperation in law enforcement.
"It is in the common interest to strengthen the fight against terrorism, confront drug trafficking, organized crime and cyber threat," Kolokoltsev said, according to a statement released by the ministry.
A constructive dialogue with the U.S. should be based on the principles of equality and mutual respect, he said.Comment on this story
Meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched one of his most stinging critiques of U.S. foreign policy on Thursday, listing what he called some of the biggest betrayals in U.S.-Russia relations, according to Reuters.
Relations between the countries are in a lamentable state, he said, referencing an “unprecedented” anti-Russian campaign in the United States, the closure of Russian diplomatic facilities in the U.S. and pressure on Russian media by U.S. authorities.
Putin also said the U.S. was trying to squeeze Russia out of European energy markets with its latest round of sanctions, which President Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law in August after Congress approved them, Reuters reported.