SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Wednesday that special counsel Robert Mueller's report should not be seen as a "magic elixir" that will soothe tensions between the two superpowers.
Huntsman told Public Radio International's "The World" in an interview that the friction continues despite the recently concluded report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election won by President Donald Trump.
"I think many on the Russian side conclude that maybe this is the magic elixir and all of our issues are all of a sudden solved, and we have to remind them that, no, this does not solve any of our issues," the ambassador said.
The same challenges continue, he said, "that brought about the unprecedented level of sanctions and the deterioration in our diplomatic presences that we see both in the U.S. mission here, and also on the U.S. side for Russia."
Those include Ukraine, where fighting has been underway for years between the government and separatists armed and financed by Russia, human rights concerns and a list that "goes on and on," Huntsman said.
But he also expressed hope that with the investigation finished, "this will allow us to take some positive steps, maybe less on the Russia side but maybe more on the U.S. side," to work out their disagreements.
"The estrangement which we've experienced in the bilateral relationship has gone on too long," Huntsman said, and "can lead to bad conclusions — always assuming the worst in the other, which is, long term, I think, potentially extremely dangerous."
His request for an advance copy of the Mueller report was turned down by the FBI, he said, describing it as "voluminous" and offering "a level of detail that we have talked about in terms of the meddling that took place in 2016" with Russian officials.
"And hopefully, that will be a cautionary note about how we go forward and stay away from meddling and interfering in our election process, which is the most valued thing we have as Americans," he said.
In a separate interview Wednesday, Huntsman said despite the "irreconcilable differences" between the United States and Russia, the two nations can still work together on issues like arms control.
"We just have some differences we're not going to solve anytime soon. They deal with values, and they deal with our loyalty and committment to NATO and our friends and allies," Huntsman said from Moscow on ABC's "The View."
He and his wife, Mary Kaye, appeared live on the network talk show to surprise their daughter, Abby, on her birthday. She is one of the show's hosts.
Asked about the relationship between the United States and Russia on the show, Huntsman offered some possible areas of agreement.
"What we can do to make the world a better, safe place, we can work on things like arms control, dealing with 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons that are in the hands of both countries," the ambassador said.
While that "would be a really good thing for the safety and security of the world," he also said the superpowers can look for "where we have overlapping and common interests" around the globe.
That includes "working together on denuclearization in North Korea, working on solving issues in Syria and ultimately, in hotspots like Venezuela," Huntsman said, areas where the United States and Russia have not been aligned.
"It's a big challenge, there's no doubt about that," the ambassador said. "I, too, get acid reflux disease working on these issues, but that's where we want to take the relationship."
He described that relationship as one "where we have some underlying irreconcilable differences."
Just a day earlier, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan tweeted that Russia should "stop playing games" with Paul Wheelan, a onetime U.S. Marine detained on accusations of espionage, after Huntsman visited him in a Moscow prison.
The Russian people themselves want to get along with the United States, Huntsman suggested.
"It might come as a surprise, that right outside of where we live right here there are a lot of beautiful, wonderful, talented, brilliant Russians who hope for a better relationship with the United States. I think they really do care about that," he said.
Huntsman stepped down as Utah's governor shortly after the start of his second term in 2009 to become U.S. ambassador to China under then-President Barack Obama.
He made a brief run for president himself in 2012, and was appointed to the Russian ambassadorship by Trump. Recently, a source confirmed to the Deseret News that Huntsman has not ruled out running for Utah governor againin 2020.13 comments on this story
Another run for the White House is not in the cards for Huntsman, however, despite being told on "The View" that Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden has said he'd rather see Huntsman as president than Trump.
"I really appreciate Joe Biden giving that kind of set up but no way, no how," Huntsman said. "No. 1, I hate politics. No. 2, I hate raising money for politics. … No. 3, I think the primary process needs to be reformed."
Plus, he said, "as for me, I'm a happy man being Abby's dad."