In these pages we offer you a glimpse of FPRI in action in 2020.
It has become a cliché to speak of 2020 as a difficult and unprecedented year. Cliché or not, it was a year of sorrow and challenges, and like the rest of the world, the Foreign Policy Research Institute had to rethink how to operate with its staff working from home and with live events cancelled for the foreseeable future. There was no road map. In the face of a looming pandemic, on March 10, 2020, we announced that our event scheduled for the next evening would be held virtually, and thus Geopolitics with Ron Granieri became our first event live-streamed via Zoom. There would be no turning back.
Thanks in large measure to the hard work, ingenuity, perseverance, and flexibility of our staff, scholars, Board, and members, I am proud to report that in 2020 FPRI held steadfast to its essential mission: to educate policymakers, policy influencers, and the general public to advance our national interests and promote a better, more peaceful world. In a year riven with divisive and acrimonious debate, we also remained a bastion of civil and informed discourse and, while institutionally nonpartisan, our roster of scholars represented a myriad of viewpoints. In 2020, we also increased our publications increased by 18%, events by 87%, and media engagement by 33%. In short, we discovered the silver lining of virtual operations: the opportunity to expand our reach to new audiences across the United States and around the globe.
Some Highlights of 2020:
Africa Program.To address growing interest about Africa, FPRI initiated its Africa Program with Trustee Ambassador Charles Ray serving as Chair. The Program’s first-ever event in November 2020—a discussion with experts on the situation in Ethiopia and Tigray—logged more than 20,000 views within only a few days. Stay tuned as we seek to expand this vibrant new Program.
Robert D. Kaplan. Bestselling author and Advisory Board Member Robert D. Kaplan expanded his role at FPRI by becoming the inaugural Robert Strausz-Hupé Chair in Geopolitics. Bob has been featured in events, including discussions with former National Security Advisor and Trustee H.R. McMaster, renowned geopolitical strategist Parag Khanna, and preeminent scholar, Senior Fellow, and Princeton Professor Stephen Kotkin. With his large following, Bob has also brought new audiences to FPRI through his prolific articles and op-eds that appear regularly in major publications. In 2021, FPRI will debut Bob’s new podcast as well as a seminar series on Great Thinkers in Geopolitics.
Robert Strausz-Hupé Project. At the end of 2020, FPRI initiated the new Robert Strausz-Hupé Project: The Atlantic System in a World of Great Power Rivalry, which will examine key questions about the past, present, and future composition and role of the Atlantic System, including its relationship to cultural and social developments in the West and democracy promotion throughout the world. With a new U.S. administration in place, we believe the time is right to take another look at this important issue.
Eurasia Program. Our largest research area, the Eurasia Program continued its superb coverage of the Russian Federation and the broader Eurasia region under the leadership of Director Christopher Miller and Deputy Director Maia Otarashvili. In 2020, the Program stepped up its engagement with U.S. officials and policymakers, including preparing a series of reports on the Russian defense industry and arms exports for the U.S. military’s European Command (EUCOM) as well as regular engagement with other governmental entities, including the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. State Department, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). The Eurasia Program’s twice-weekly newletters on Russian politics and the Bear Market Brief podcast also continued to provide superb analysis and unique insights into the politics and economics of this region to a growing audience.
FPRI’s publication of the groundbreaking edited volume, Russia’s War in Syria: Assessing Russian Military Capabilities and Lessons Learned, provided one of the first comprehensive examinations of the impact on Russia of its engagement in the Syria conflict. A collaboration between our Eurasia and Middle East Programs, the six-chapter volume was co-edited by Chris Miller, Robert Hamilton, and Aaron Stein, and was overseen by Maia Otarashvili.
Middle East Program. In 2020, the Middle East Program focused on a series of key issues with direct impact on U.S. foreign policy. In addition to the edited volume on Russia’s engagement in Syria, Director Aaron Stein edited a separate volume, Iraq in Transition: Competing Actors & Complicated Politics, which examined how the United States should approach a post-ISIS Iraq and how key actors can better understand Iraqi domestic politics. Aaron’s Middle East Brief podcast continued to deliver expert discussions of critical regional issues to an ever-growing audience. The Program also convened a conference with the Heinrich Böll Foundation on the Eastern Mediterranean with experts and policymakers from the United States, Europe, and Turkey. This event resulted in the publication of six reports on ways to collaborate in the region.
National Security Program. The 2020 highlights of the National Security Program included the Foreign Influence Election 2020 (FIE2020) project, led by Distinguished Research Fellow Clint Watts, whose team tracked and analyzed Russian, Chinese, and Iranian media efforts to influence public opinion about presidential candidates during the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The Program published Senior Fellow Paul Bracken’s fascinating monograph, The Hunt for Mobile Missiles: Nuclear Weapons, AI, and the New Arms Race, which was discussed on the Middle East Brief.
Asia Program. Under the leadership of Jacques deLisle, the Asia Program addressed a wide range of issues, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on China, Taiwan, and the broader region and implications for the United States. The Asia Program hosted, in collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a symposium on competitiveness and competition policy in the region and the impact on U.S. policy. Jacques deLisle also served as guest editor for the 2020 Spring Issue of Orbis, which focused on political warfare in Asia and was the subject of a multi-part event series featuring the issue’s authors.
Orbis. Our quarterly journal of world affairs entered a new phase with Senior Fellow Nikolas K. Gvosdev taking over the helm as Editor, beginning with the 2020 Fall Special Issue on national security and technology in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick has brought new energy and topicality to Orbis, while at the same time maintaining its long tradition of providing thought-provoking, in-depth debate and analysis.
Historical Literacy Program. The Historical Literacy Program, initially launched in 2019, continued to develop new curriculum designed to expand students’ capacity for critical and independent thinking through the study and analysis of case studies. In 2020, Education Director Agnieszka “Aya” Marczyk introduced this new curriculum to approximately 300 teachers through professional development workshops. FPRI also adapted this curriculum into virtual learning modules that are included in the School District of Philadelphia’s online curriculum offerings for 11th and 12th grade students.
Lecture Series. FPRI hosted two noteworthy annual lectures this past year: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Ginsburg-Satell Chair Walter McDougall delivered the annual Ginsburg-Satell Lecture on American Character and Identity, sharing new insights into the role of William Penn and Benjamin Franklin in the founding of Philadelphia. The 2020 Templeton Lecture on Religion and World Affairs featured Ziya Meral, who provided a fascinating analysis of religion, identity, and politics in the 21st century. We are deeply grateful to our generous donors Stan Ginsburg, Ed Satell, and the Templeton Family for making these important lectures possible.
On a more somber note, we mourned the loss of several longtime supporters and associates of FPRI in 2020. Trustee emeritus Alan Reed, a board member and avid supporter for many years, will long be remembered as a consummate gentleman and true friend to FPRI. Lionel Savadove was also a long-serving trustee before becoming a trustee emeritus a few years ago. Lionel’s enthusiasm for FPRI’s activities and keen interest in international affairs was much appreciated, and we will greatly miss seeing him at our events. We were also saddened by the passing of Theodore “Dorie” Friend, an intellectual and institutional leader who served as president of Swarthmore College before joining FPRI, where his talents as an exceptional scholar and a meticulous, elegant writer shone brightly. Diane Freedman, wife of our indefatigable chairman, Bob Freedman, also passed; she was a tireless booster of FPRI in her own right and a warm presence at many, many events throughout the years. Finally, we sadly bid farewell to Board of Trustees Vice Chair Samuel Savitz. Sam was deeply committed to FPRI, serving as a trustee for many years and as co-chair of the Nominating Committee, and on the Executive and Finance Committees. His kindness, wisdom, and generosity of spirit will be dearly missed by everyone who had the good fortune to know him. We will miss them all greatly and extend our heartfelt condolences to their families and friends.
Finally, I must express my deep gratitude to our Board of Trustees who have given so generously of their time and wisdom to help make FPRI the vibrant organization that it is today, and to our generous supporters whose commitment enables us to do our important work every day. We thank you and hope to see you—in person!—in 2021.