Russia’s current ambassador to the United States, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, is set to return to Russia soon, with a going away party scheduled July 11th. He is expected to be replaced by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Anatoly Ivanovich Antonov. Antonov was named as Kislyak’s replacement in February and was approved for the post by Russia’s Duma (literally, “House;” i.e. the legislature) in May. While Kislyak is known for his parties, Antonov has been called a “bull-terrier.”
Both men are interesting.
Kislyak is 66 years old, holds a degree in physics, and is an ethnic Ukrainian born in Moscow. He is a career diplomat and has served as ambassador to the U.S. since 2008, having previously held the post of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister (like Antonov). He is known for being socially active and throwing parties, attempting to push Russia’s interests through personal relationships. He had been considered for a counter-terrorism post at the United Nations, but is being recalled to Russia instead. This may because he has emerged as a central figure in the intrigue surrounding the rumored Russian interference in the U.S. election. Thus, while many U.S. politicians have met with him (which would be expected as he is the ambassador to the U.S.) most have either denied meeting him or have “forgotten.” Therefore, it would be difficult for Kislyak to continue to serve in the U.S., since people are now reluctant to meet with him due to the on-going FBI investigation of Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election.
Antonov is 62 years old, holds a degree in international relations, and was born in Siberia. He is a career diplomat, but also holds the rank of Army general. He is under sanctions by the European Union due to Russia’s role in the Ukrainian conflict and has been called a “bull-terrier” due to his hardline stance towards the West (he has accused NATO of confronting Russia in Ukraine).
Thus, the ambassadorship will shift from a partying ambassador who seeks to wield influence behind the scenes, but who no one wants to be seen with in public, to a hardline general who seeks to confront the West. Trump, for his part, has planned to send former Utah governor John Huntsman as ambassador to Russia, replacing the incumbent John Tefft, who has served in that position since 2014.