This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. President Donald Trump says that John Sullivan, a deputy secretary of state, “could very well be” Washington’s next ambassador to Russia, replacing Jon Huntsman Jr., who announced his resignation earlier this month.
Trump made the comments on August 20 as he spoke to reporters during a White House visit by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
His remarks came after The New York Times reported that Trump was expected to name Sullivan to the diplomatic post, coming at a sensitive time in U.S.-Russia relations.
Huntsman said in a letter dated August 8 that he would step down on October 3, ending two years in the post dominated by issues such as U.S. sanctions on Russia and a row that led to diplomats being expelled from both countries.
Several reports from news media in Utah stated that Huntsman, a former governor of the state, would run in an election to win back his old job.
Earlier on August 20, The New York Times quoted several former government officials as saying they saw Sullivan as a surprise choice for the Moscow role given his limited diplomatic experience.
Sullivan is “not known as a big player in the Washington policy process,” Stephen Sestanovich, who served as the State Department’s ambassador at large to the former Soviet Union during the Clinton administration, told the newspaper.
He added that Sullivan is not widely known for expertise on Russia-related matters.
Sullivan worked as a lawyer before he joined the Trump administration in 2017. He previously served in the George H.W. Bush administration as a Justice Department official and under President George W. Bush in the Defense and Commerce Departments.
Trump on August 20 also repeated his comments that Russia should be brought back into the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations, a call he made in June 2018 during a G7 summit in Canada.
The G7 consists of Canada, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Britain. Russia was expelled from the grouping, known then as the G8, following its seizure of Crimea.
“But I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in. It should be the G8 because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia,” Trump said.