As a preliminary matter, both personally and on behalf of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, I would like to thank you all for your support, cooperation, and understanding during this unprecedented and challenging time. In the face of these difficulties, FPRI’s mission remains critical. We have an excellent and committed staff, superb scholars, a wise and involved board, discerning and active supporters, and a world that needs the informed and critical analysis, reporting, and education that we provide more than ever. Together, we will emerge from these challenges stronger, more resilient, and undaunted.
Looking back on what now seems an eon ago, FPRI had an outstanding 2019. We continued to do what we do best: educating policymakers, policy influencers, and the public at large to advance our national interests and promote a peaceful world. As the public debate and information disseminated by media outlets has grown more polarized, our mission to provide thoughtful, in-depth analysis—the story behind the story—could not be more relevant. The following are some highlights of the past year.
Our Eurasia Program, under the able direction of Program Director Dr. Christopher Miller and Deputy Director Maia Otarashvili, continued to grow and lead the think tank community with its coverage of the Eurasia region with five thematic initiatives and seven publication series, including the newly launched BMB Ukraine, a companion brief to BMB Russia, both of which provide comprehensive coverage of evolving economic and political developments in these regions. The Eurasia Program launched its new Central Asia Initiative and held 20 public and private events, including a co-sponsored conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, which addressed the destabilizing role of Russia and China in Central and Eastern Europe. The Eurasia Program’s 25 affiliated scholars published 45 articles and 6 special reports. The program appointed three new Baltic Sea Fellows, two new Black Sea Fellows, and a special Eurasia Fellow, Dr. Stephen Kotkin.
The Middle East Program had a remarkably productive year under the leadership of Dr. Aaron Stein. In partnership with the Atlantic Council and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation, FPRI convened a conference in Erbil, Iraq, to address the future of northeast Syria and the implications for American and European security, and held a separate dialogue in Brussels, in partnership with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, on transatlantic and global security. Dr. Stein published over two dozen articles and roundtable discussions, and launched a bi-weekly podcast, The Middle East Brief, whose dedicated audience continues to grow. Scholars in the Middle East Program were cited hundreds of times and published nearly 50 articles in major media outlets. Notably, our new scholar Elizabeth Tsurkov has provided remarkable, firsthand coverage of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Idlib, writing for the New York Review of Books, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and Forward.
The Foreign Influence Election 2020 (FIE2020) project, led by Distinguished Research Fellow Clint Watts, has exposed and tracked Russian, Chinese, and Iranian media efforts to influence public opinion about presidential candidates competing in the 2020 U.S. election. Mr. Watts was among the first to identify and track Russian social media influence during the 2016 election, and this project has received ample coverage in media, including on MSNBC, ABC, Newsweek, Newsmax, and, of course, Russia Today.
FPRI launched the Luxenberg Education Fund, with its centerpiece project to develop an innovative curriculum to teach high school students critical thinking through historical case studies. Dr. Agnieszka Marczyk was appointed on July 1 as Education Director and Templeton Education Fellow to develop this curriculum and will lead workshops to introduce this curriculum to teachers with a view toward its inclusion in high schools in the Philadelphia region and beyond.
The Asia Program, under the leadership of Jacques deLisle, continued its focus on relations among China, Taiwan, and the United States, delving into the most important issues that East Asia faces in the 21st century, including the evolution of U.S. trade strategy in Asia and human rights issues in China. DeLisle provided deft analysis on discontent in Hong Kong and collaborated with Research Associate Thomas J. Shattuck on the publication of the special report “The Taiwan Relations Act at 40” and, together with Senior Fellow Avery Goldstein, co-edited To Get Rich Is Glorious: Challenges Facing China’s Economic Reform and Opening at 40. Mr. Shattuck also spearheaded a project on transitional justice efforts in Taiwan, conducting research during two visits to Taiwan, and producing articles published by FPRI and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and a special report featuring policy recommendations for the major parties in Taiwan and the U.S. Government.
At our Annual Dinner, FPRI was honored to confer upon former National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster the 15th annual Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Service as a stateman, sage, and soldier who exemplified the ideals of Benjamin Franklin and the United States. General McMaster provided a fascinating talk at the dinner on the challenges to American security.
We were delighted to feature Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Walter McDougall in two named lectures: the Ginsburg-Satell Lecture on American Character and Identity, where he delivered a novel profile of Benjamin Franklin as a reluctant revolutionary; and the Templeton Lecture on Religion and World Affairs, where he gave an overview of the last 500 years of the history of the role of religion in world politics.
FPRI’s public presence grew significantly with over 600 citations and articles in major U.S. media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, and in foreign media. Clint Watts continued to be a frequent commentator on major television networks and testified in Congress on two important issues: domestic terrorism and the shortfalls in countering terrorism in the homeland, and deep fakes and the dangers they pose to public discourse.
On a personal note, we mourned the loss of two trustee emeriti, Edward L. Snitzer and Graham Humes. Ed served as chairman of our Finance Committee for some years. Even after he rotated off the board, Ed remained a good friend to FPRI. Graham’s health issues prevented him from being active with us the last couple of years, but he nonetheless remained an avid consumer of our written work and a loyal supporter of FPRI until his death.
We lost our dear friend Pina Templeton who passed away after a long illness. The Templeton family has been a part of FPRI for nearly 30 years, with Pina’s husband the late Jack Templeton serving on our board for nearly 25 years. During the years that Jack served as chair of our Annual Dinner, Pina personally picked up the cost of our featured performers from the U.S. Army Band (in addition to their annual exceedingly generous contributions), as she so loved that very patriotic dimension of our dinner. In person, Pina was unassuming, humble, and approachable, and the kind of person everyone should aspire to be. The world will miss her dearly.
I would be remiss if I did not express my deep gratitude to those who have been so generous in providing advice and guidance during my initial months as President, with special thanks to former President Alan Luxenberg and Chairman of the Board Robert L. Freedman.
We are deeply grateful to our loyal supporters, without whom we could not fulfill our mission. For those who are newly discovering FPRI, we invite you to get to know us better and I hope to see you (either in person or virtually) at our upcoming events.