Former US ambassador to Russia fears that ‘man of empire’ Putin will only ‘double down’ on Ukraine invasion
Russian President Vladimir Putin has had more than his share of Republican cheerleaders in 2022 — a list that ranges from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to “War Room” host Steve Bannon to former President Donald Trump to QAnon supporter Lauren Witzke, the Delaware Republican who lost to Sen. Chris Coons in 2020. But one GOP conservative who is vehemently critical of Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine is former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr.
The 61-year-old Huntsman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia under Trump from 2017-2019, believes that the invasion of Ukraine will be Putin’s political downfall. Speaking at the Economic Club of Minnesota recently, Huntsman said of Putin, “He’s done. The Putin era is over. The only thing we need to now understand is the level of damage he’s going to do as he goes. I think that could be substantial, and we have to be prepared for that.”
Since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, thousands of people have been killed — and more than 3 million Ukraine residents have fled the country. Huntsman, according to Salt Lake City Tribune reporter Bryan Schott, believes that Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine reflects his desire for an “empire.”
“It’s very telling when you walk into Putin’s office, and you see a portrait on the wall of Peter the Great,” Huntsman explained. “That’s not there by accident. There’s a sort of emotional connection Putin feels there. He’s a man of empire — not just the Soviet empire, but the Russian empire.”
Huntsman fears that the worst is yet to come in Ukraine.
“(Putin) is a master of escalation,” warned Huntsman, who also served as U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama and U.S. ambassador to Singapore under the late President George H.W. Bush. “It keeps me up at night just thinking about it. Putin will continue with force, and it will get worse. We have to be extremely careful, so this does not evolve into a confrontation where horrible weapons are introduced to the battlefield like tactical nuclear weapons.”
The invasion of Ukraine has clearly been much more difficult for Russian troops than Putin anticipated, but Huntsman doesn’t believe that seeing so many Russian soldiers killed in battle will inspire Putin to rethink the invasion.
“Does this mean Putin begins to have second thoughts about what he’s done? No, that’s not Putin’s style,” Huntsman lamented. “He’ll double down, and things will get rougher. I have feelings of tremendous unease about the days and weeks ahead hold.”
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