Open Letter in Support of Free Inquiry and Discussion

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We, the undersigned, watched with worry the recent flurry of media and social-media speculation about a possible appointment to the National Security Council. This concerned Matthew Rojansky, the Director of the Woodrow Wilson’s Kennan Institute, a leading national center dedicated to the study of Russia and Eurasia. The personal attacks on Mr. Rojansky were intended simultaneously to damage Mr. Rojansky’s reputation and to shut down policy debate. We see all of this as very dangerous.

The media coverage and the social-media activity on this topic failed to meet the criteria of real journalism and of reasoned public debate. Baseless accusations were levied, some outlandish (of Mr. Rojansky as a “Kremlin asset”) and some deceptively moderate, the claim, for example, that Mr. Rojansky is “controversial,” as if his analyses and opinions are commonly considered beyond the pale. This is not the case. Mr. Rojansky is a respected member of the expert community in Washington, D.C. His ideas are well within the scope of serious debate about U.S. Russia policy. Those who should know better have unjustly sullied Mr. Rojansky’s reputation.

The attacks on Mr. Rojansky suggested that his views are unacceptable and therefore that they should bar him from government service, suggestions that are as untrue as they are injurious. Scholars, experts, and policymakers must carefully assimilate new evidence and regularly challenge old assumptions: the only guarantee of doing so is a range of perspectives expressed through vigorous debate. At issue is not just the intellectual health of a given expert community. At issue is nothing less than the process by which U.S. policy is made, and to succeed the process must be open. Many of the greatest disasters in the history of American foreign policy followed from the stovepiping of information or from the silencing or sidelining of one or another school of expert opinion. The histories of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars stand as cautionary examples.

The Biden administration is navigating an exceptionally complicated period of conflict and engagement with Russia. It deserves access to an expert community dedicated to the ideal of free inquiry and discussion and not to social-media insinuation, smear campaigns, and ad hominem invective. The experience of these past weeks shows that this ideal cannot be taken for granted. We the undersigned wish with this letter to defend the ideal of free inquiry and discussion. We encourage others as well to defend and uphold it. The consequences of doing otherwise will be dire for experts and non-experts alike.



*All signers are acting in their personal capacity. Institutional affiliations are listed for purposes of identification only and do not imply institutional support for the content of the letter.

Graham Allison, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy and Plans, 1993-1994; Harvard Kennedy School

Dmitri Alperovich, Silverado Policy Accelerator

Steven Andreasen, Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control, National Security Council, 1993-2001; Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

Deana Arsenian, Carnegie Corporation of New York

Emma Ashford, Atlantic Council

Michele Auga, personal capacity

Kennette Benedict, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

John Beyrle, Ambassador to Russia, 2008-2012

Ireneusz Bil, Aleksander Kwasniewski “Amicus Europae’ Foundation

Douglas W. Blum, Providence College

George Breslauer, University of California at Berkeley

Linton Brooks, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Governor of California, 1975-1983, 2011-2019; Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Des Browne, Former U.K. Secretary of State for Defense; Nuclear Threat Initiative

Richard Burt, U.S. Ambassador (retired); Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, 1983-1985

Pia Bungarten, personal capacity

David Cadier, Sciences Po

Samuel Charap, Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, 2011-2012

Carmen Claudin, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs

James Collins, Ambassador to Russia, 1997-2001

Timothy Colton, Harvard University

Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, 2011-2017

Keith Darden, American University

Dann Davidson, American Councils Research Center; American Councils for International Education

Michael Desch, Notre Dame International Security Center

Robert Donaldson, University of Tulsa

Jill Doughterty, Georgetown University

Susan Eisenhower, Eisenhower Institute

Susan Elliott, U.S. Ambassador (retired); National Committee on American Foreign Policy

Robert David English, University of Southern California

Elisa Catalano Ewers, former official at the National Security Council and the U.S. Department of State

Jeffrey Fields, University of Southern California

Sabine Fischer, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik

Bob Foresman, Former Vice Chairman, UBS Investment Bank

Timothy Frye, Columbia University

Graham Fuller, Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council, CIA, 1986-1988

Eugene Gholz, University of Notre Dame

Elise Giuliano, Columbia University

Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture, 1995-2001

Krista Goff, University of Miami

Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, 2014-2016

Loren R. Graham, MIT

Thomas Graham, Senior Director for Russia, National Security Council staff, 2004-2007

Anna Grzymala-Busse, Stanford University

Thane Gustafson, Georgetown University

Henry Hale, George Washington University

Martin E. Hellman, Stanford University

David Holloway, Stanford University

Nina Jankowicz, The Woodrow Wilson Center

James Jeffrey, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

Robert Jervis, Columbia University

Mark Johnson, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Jan H. Kalicki, U.S. Ombudsman for Energy and Commercial Relations with Russia and the New Independent States, The White House, 1994-2001; The Woodrow Wilson Center

Roger Kanet, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Miami

Laura Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

Nina Khrushcheva, The New School

Michael Kimmage, Catholic University of America

Markku Kivinen, Aleksanteri Institute, Finnish Centre for Russian and Eastern European Studies

Michael Kofman, CNA

George Krol, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

Reinhard Krumm, personal capacity

Marlene Laruelle, George Washington University

Anthony Lauren, MITRE

Richard Ned Lebow, King’s College London; Cambridge University; Dartmouth College

Robert Legvold, Columbia University

Kadri Liik, European Council on Foreign Relations

William Luers, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

Marisol Maddox, The Woodrow Wilson Center

Steven Mann, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

Jack Matlock, Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1987-1991

Richard H. Matzke, Former Board Member (Chevron, PetroChina, and Lukoil)

Robert McFarlane, National Security Advisor, 1983-1985

John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago

Rajan Menon, City College of New York/City University of New York

Richard Miles, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

Chris Miller, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Jackie Miller, World Affairs Council, Seattle

Mykhailo Minakov, Kennan Institute, The Woodrow Wilson Center

Julie Newton, Oxford University; American University of Paris

Robert Nurick, Atlantic Council

John O’Loughlin, University of Colorado at Boulder

Olga Oliker, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Bruce Parrott, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

David Patton, American Councils for International Education

Peter Pettibone, Pettibone International ADR LLC

Thomas Pickering, Ambassador to Russia, 1993-1996

Dana Ponte, National Council of Eurasian and Eastern European Research

William Pomeranz, personal capacity

William Potter, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Alex Pravda, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford

Thomas Rid, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Cynthia Roberts, Hunter College, City University of New York

Graeme Robertson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Candace Rondeaux, New America

Stapleton Roy, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, 1999-2000; Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, Wilson Center

Blair Ruble, The Woodrow Wilson Center

Daniel Russell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasia Affairs, 2009-2013

Gwendolyn Sasse, Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOIS)

Paul Saunders, Center for the National Interest

Colette Shulman, Harriman Institute National Advisory Council

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy Planning, 2009-2011, U.S. Department of State; New America

Regina Smyth, Indiana University, Bloomington

Jack Snyder, Columbia University

Paul Stares, Council on Foreign Relations

Jeremi Suri, University of Texas at Austin

Ronald Suny, University of Michigan

Izabella Tabarovsky, Kennan Institute, The Woodrow Wilson Center

Gerard Toal, Virginia Tech

Monica Toft, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Daniel Treisman, UCLA

Judyth Twigg, Virginia Commonwealth University

Anna Vassilieva, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Alexandra Vacroux, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University

Stephen M. Walt, Harvard University

Yuval Weber, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University

Stephen Wertheim, Quincy Institute

Julie Wilhelmsen, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

Frank G. Wisner, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

William Wohlforth, Dartmouth College

Kenneth Yalowitz, U.S. Ambassador (retired)

Charles Ziegler, University of Louisville

Peter Zwack, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (retired); Kennan Institute, The Woodrow Wilson Center


Image: Flickr (Photo by Ryan Dlugash)