- Thomas Pickering says there are issues Americans can work with Russians on
- He says the nuclear issue will be critical for the new US ambassador
Pickering told CNN's "New Day" on Thursday that Huntsman first must "form his own judgment about what is real, what is true."
"Our relationship with Russia over the years has been difficult ... and sometimes very confrontational," Pickering said, also pointing out some areas in which the two nations have cooperated.
"We've worked together against terrorism. We've worked together interestingly enough in Afghanistan. ... The Russians have worked together with us very closely under the International Space Station. We've tried to work with them on Syria. Some of that has begun to come back again."
Huntsman, a former Utah governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate, has accepted President Donald Trump's offer of the Russian ambassadorship, several senior administration officials told CNN.
Pickering said the issue of nuclear power would be critical for Huntsman, warning that he should "add notes of sanity, of care of building stability in that relationship" rather than confrontation.
If confirmed, Huntsman would take the post amid ongoing questions about alleged connections between Russians and the Trump campaign
-- and just months after Russia's reported meddling in the 2016 election.
When asked for his reaction to the Trump administration's communications with Russia
, Pickering said, "Our works with the Russian contacts are essential."
Speaking to the Russians is not the issue, he said, but he raised concerns about truthfulness, pointing to contradictions over contacts by ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn
and Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Thomas Pickering was US ambassador to Russia from 1993 to 1996 under the Clinton administration. He has been a diplomat for more than four decades, most recently undersecretary of state for political affairs, also under Clinton.