Three Questions with Jonathan Katz
Jonathan Katz joined GMF as a senior resident fellow on February 1, 2017. His career has spanned development, defense, and diplomacy, most recently as the deputy assistant administrator in the Europe and Eurasia Bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development and as a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department.
GMF is excited that you are coming on board as a senior fellow. What are you hoping to address through this fellowship?
First, I am excited and honored to join GMF, which has contributed significantly to the security, prosperity, and stability of Americans, Europeans and others globally. The main areas I plan to address at GMF include supporting the core mission of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, supporting transatlantic unity, and deepening Euro-Atlantic security, political, economic and development engagement. With President Trump’s wavering on NATO, public and private tweaking of key partners like Germany and France, unusual support for Putin and Russia, and the traditional bipartisan support for transatlantic relations at risk, GMF is in the right place to make a compelling case for why transatlantic relations are essential to the present and future security, prosperity, and welfare of the United States and Europe. I saw firsthand the impact of GMF’s transatlantic role as a Foreign Affairs Committee staffer in Congress. In the 1990s and 2000s I worked closely with GMF to support deeper transatlantic ties and successful NATO and EU enlargement from Ljubljana to Tallinn. Those efforts helped transform former Communist and Soviet states, improving the lives of millions in Europe and globally. I want to continue to support this work at GMF in my new capacity here, and believe the institution’s reach in Washington and Europe, and its strong reputation and tireless advocacy for this critical partnership, puts this organization in a leadership role during a difficult moment.
One of the other challenges I plan to address while at GMF is building the intellectual capital for greater Euro-Atlantic collaboration on development assistance and integration activities targeting Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and Western Balkan countries. Furthering the Euro-Atlantic goals and aspirations for these countries from Kiev to Belgrade is clearly in the interest of both sides of the Atlantic. It would be counterproductive and costly to the United States and Europe if policy shifts halt reforms and progress in these countries, further destabilizing weakened economies and regional security. Transatlantic supporters need to push back in Washington and in Europe on those forces seeking to tear apart the EU and prevent further Euro-Atlantic integration. We need to ensure that important programs like GMF’s Black Sea Trust and Balkan Trust for Democracy can continue to support democratic growth, civil society, rule of law, independent media, and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Additionally, at GMF I look forward to laying out ideas for new policy tools and political messaging strategies to help policymakers in the United States and Europe find the right policies to support greater engagement with other countries on Russia’s periphery including Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus. I include Turkey in this category as well. Despite deep challenges to bilateral relations, the U.S.–Turkish strategic partnership remains vital to both Washington and Ankara. We need a renewed effort to pull U.S.–Turkish relations out of a deep rut and accelerate efforts to improve this relationship. On Turkey, GMF, with its office in Ankara, has long played a role bridging gaps in the bilateral relationship and bringing key Turkish and American decision-makers together.
At this pivotal moment in time, GMF is really in the center of an effort to make sure that the transatlantic values that have been in place for the past seven decades remain. So I am really excited to be at GMF — it is at the center of policy and convening on transatlantic issues, and it is also a “do tank,” which means it has a successful practical record in the creation of policy in this domain.
Central and Eastern Europe, a region you know well, is going through a volatile period. From your perspective, what can the new U.S. administration and its partners in Europe do to foster stability in the region?
I had the opportunity to be in the Obama administration for seven out of the last eight years. We worked hard to support, advance, and expand the strategic goal of a “Europe whole, free, and at peace.” This strategic goal should remain a top priority for the new administration. Europe is experiencing great volatility and this is the moment when U.S. leadership and support are needed the most. American leaders would best serve U.S. and allied interests by expanding the defense, diplomacy, and development focus and assets in Europe. I hope that the new administration will pick up where we left off — make Europe a priority, make democracy, good governance, and rule of law priorities, and also put the necessary resources and effort into helping countries on the periphery like Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and the Western Balkans.
This is not the time for the United States to shrink from a leadership role in Europe and Eurasia. Not just for the sake of countering Russian aggression, but because these countries and their populations want to transition: they want to be democratic and prosperous countries that are able to trade freely and to determine their own fates. It is important for the Trump administration, as we saw recently with the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, to be clear with President Putin about the unwavering U.S. commitment and support for the independence, sovereignty, and borders of Ukraine, NATO allies, and countries across Europe and Eurasia. I know it is in the tradition of Democrats and Republicans in Washington to support countries that want to join the Euro-Atlantic family. I am hopeful that this new administration will come to the same conclusion that previous administrations since President Truman have had about the importance of the transatlantic relationship to our future.
You join GMF from USAID, an agency that shares GMF’s roots in the Marshall Plan. That historic initiative, that used aid to foster a peaceful, principled world order after World War II, is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Do you think the Marshall Plan is still relevant today?
The Marshall plan is incredibly relevant today given that the economic and political stability of Europe that the plan sought to instill is at risk. It is true that when President Kennedy launched USAID, the Marshall Plan was one of the clearest and most successful examples of the power of U.S. assistance at that time. The Marshall Plan also had a lasting impact on some of the world’s largest assistance providers, including the European Union, Germany, and the United Kingdom and the United Nations and multilateral institutions. The transformation that took place in Europe with U.S. support and assistance after the World War II was historic. It also brought a tremendous amount of goodwill for the United States and is still paying political, economic, and security dividends today. It helped move countries in the right political and economic direction after a devastating war.
Being at USAID and working in the Europe and Eurasia region, I saw firsthand the impact of U.S. development assistance that built on The Marshall Plan and supported the transition of several EU member states. Remarkably, in the spirt of The Marshall Plan, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, and other countries in Eastern and Central Europe that were recipients of USAID assistance in the 1990s are now providing development assistance and technical support of their own to their neighbors in Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and the Western Balkans.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.