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Press Release

GMF President Dr. Karen Donfried Appointed Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

September 28, 2021
3 min read
The German Marshall Fund of the United States is proud to congratulate our president, Dr. Karen Donfried, on her appointment as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. The United States Senate voted to confirm Dr. Donfried to this position on September 28, 2021.

Dr. Donfried has served as president of GMF since April, 2014. Under her leadership, GMF developed a new strategic vision and established four priority areas for its transatlantic work: the future of democracy, geopolitics and the rise of China, security, and technology and innovation. Along with the Munich Security Conference Chair Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, she co-chaired the 2020 Transatlantic Task Force, which offered recommendations for strengthening transatlantic cooperation on key global challenges.

“Karen’s leadership of GMF didn’t just make the institution stronger—her time at GMF’s helm has deepened bonds and understanding between America and Europe,” said GMF Board Chair Robin West. “Karen’s mantra was ‘One GMF,’ and her leadership brought together many diverse strands of GMF’s work to create a force for stronger transatlantic relations in the spirit of the Marshall Plan.”

Karen’s mantra was One GMF, and her leadership brought together many diverse strands of GMF’s work to create a force for stronger transatlantic relations in the spirit of the Marshall Plan.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at GMF’s Brussels Forum in June, acknowledged the role Dr. Donfried will play in the Biden administration’s foreign policy, saying, “Thank you to Dr. Karen Donfried for your leadership. President Joe Biden and I look forward to having you join our administration very soon.”

Dr. Donfried, during her confirmation hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke about the role of alliance with Europe in addressing the 21st century’s global challenges:  “The strength of America’s alliances is one of our greatest assets, whether we are confronting the COVID-19 pandemic, economic or social inequality, climate change, corruption, threats to energy security, an aggressive Russia, an increasingly assertive China, cyber threats, or technological competition, the United States is most effective when we cooperate with our allies. Europe is home to many of our closest allies and partners.”

Donfried first joined GMF in 2001 after having served for ten years as a European specialist at the Congressional Research Service. From 2003-2005, she was responsible for the Europe portfolio on the U.S. Department of State’s policy planning staff. She returned to GMF from 2005 to 2010, first as senior director of policy programs and then as executive vice president. From 2011 to 2014, Dr. Donfried served as national intelligence officer for Europe on the National Intelligence Council and subsequently as the special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council at the White House.

Dr. Ian Lesser, GMF vice president and director of the Brussels office, is serving as interim president of GMF.  A search is underway for Dr. Donfried’s successor.