The boxer Muhammed Ali has one of the more unusual connections to Russia. His original name, Cassius Clay, is a tribute to Cassius Marcellus Clay, a fiery Southern abolitionist and U.S. Civil War minister to Russia.
The original Clay brilliantly served U.S. interests in Russia at the time, fitting smoothly into the tsar's court by virtue of his own upbringing as a Southern gentleman. Russia will soon get a new U.S. ambassador, the career diplomat John Tefft, assuming Moscow accepts his nomination. As Tefft prepares for his work, he should remember Clay's lesson.