“He has years of experience,” Winer said. “He is not going in as an apologist for anybody. He is going in straight and clean.”
“Huntsman dealt with a complex China relationship, so he can deal with a complex Russia relationship,” Winer added.
Vladimir Frolov, a Russian political analyst, is less certain.
“Where his Chinese credentials come in handy, I do not know,” Frolov told The Moscow Times. “Maybe he will have a nuanced appreciation of the tangled dynamics in the Russia-China relationship, but that’s not really part of the U.S.-Russia plate.”
Huntsman will also be “hobbled by his lack of Russian, Frolov added. “Maybe he will read Mandarin signs at GUM and TsUM, but that would not get him too far,” he quipped, referring to the iconic department stores.
Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a specialist on Russia, stresses that while he believes Huntsman will be a success, it is the White House, not the ambassador, that will be dictating policy.
“This is how it always is,” Cohen told The Moscow Times, “and this is something people need to understand when they look at these important and sensitive diplomatic relationships.”
In any case, says Frolov, the bar measuring Huntsman’s success should be set low.
“The relationship is so bad right now that it is almost impossible to fail as ambassador,” Frolov said. “Whatever he does will be a step forward or upward.”