Huntsman, a moderate Republican who was at times a vocal critic of President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, has previous diplomatic experience, having served as ambassador to Singapore in the early 1990s and to China from 2009 to 2011. His term as governor spanned 2005 to 2009.
He resigned from his post in Beijing in 2011 to return to the U.S. to run for the 2012 Republican nomination for president. After finishing seventh in the Iowa caucuses, third in the New Hampshire primary and seventh in the South Carolina primary, Huntsman withdrew from the race and endorsed eventual nominee Mitt Romney.
Despite differences in opinion on policy voiced by Huntsman during the campaign, Trump received his endorsement during the 2016 presidential election up until the October leak of an audio tape in which Trump boasted about groping women. Afterward, Huntsman called for then-vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence to lead the ticket.
"In a campaign cycle that has been nothing but a race to the bottom -- at such a critical moment for our nation -- and with so many who have tried to be respectful of a record primary vote, the time has come for Governor Pence to lead the ticket," said Huntsman to The Salt Lake Tribune at the time.
The position of ambassador to Russia has taken on greater importance in recent weeks in the wake of revelations that a number of Trump administration officials made contact with a Russian diplomat prior to Trump's inauguration.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn all met with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in the last year as the country was working to influence the U.S. presidential election. The intelligence community has found no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia on the matter.
"We will welcome any head of the U.S. embassy to Russia who will be a staunch supporter of the idea of developing the dialogue between the two countries," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement this morning in response to Huntsman's nomination.