New Russian Ambassador Makes Life Hard for Trump and Tillerson

FILE - In this file photo taken on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov smiles at a briefing in the Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia. Russian lawmakers have backed Antonov, the current deputy foreign minister as the new ambassador to the United States. Russian news agencies reported Thursday, May 18, 2017 that members of the lower house's foreign affairs committee supported Antonov, whose appointment hasn't been officially announced yet. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

As I just posted, long time Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak has been recalled to Moscow.

Who has Russia selected to replace him?

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister has been named as Russia’s ambassador in the United States, foreign ministry sources have told The Moscow Times.

Career diplomat Anatoly Antonov will now need to be approved by Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, before formally taking the post.

The former deputy defense minister was first chosen as a possible candidate in the autumn of 2016, when the Kremlin believed that Democrat party nominee Hilary Clinton would take the White House.

Antonov was seen as a “hardliner” on the West, who would be able to negotiate with Clinton amid strained U.S.-Russia ties, the Kommersant newspaper reported Monday.

The fact that Russia is sending a “hard liner” to replace Kislyak should calm down the “Russia is not our friend” crowd, but it won’t because those same people never cared about Russia until Trump was elected. But a hardline ambassador is not a problem, we’ve had lots of those sent by Russia since 1917. Antonov is under EU sanctions over his role in the aggression against Ukraine:

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov is the highest-profile target of new sanctions due to be formally endorsed by European Union foreign ministers on Monday, diplomatic sources told Reuters.

Envoys of the 28 EU governments agreed this week on a list of Russian and pro-Moscow Ukrainian people and organisations that will be added to the EU’s sanctions list in its latest response to violence by pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine.

If Tillerson wants to play hardball with Moscow, because Antonov’s appointment seems like a calculated insult, he should refuse to accept his credentials and force Moscow to send a replacement. That probably won’t happen but it would be epic political theater if he did.