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Right direction | Shaping a better future together: An interview with Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council

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DAMON Macallister Wilson was born in 1973 in Charleston, South Carolina. He graduated from James Island High School in Charleston (1991), Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (Benjamin N. Duke Leadership Scholar, B.A., Political Science, 1995) and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in Princeton, New Jersey (MPA, 1998).

He worked for the U.S. Department of State (Political and Military Officer/NATO Desk Officer, Office of European Security and Political Affairs, 1998-2001; Economic Officer, U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, and Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs, 2000), NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson (Deputy Director, 2001-2004), The White House National Security Council (Director for Central, Eastern and Northern European Affairs, 2004-2006; Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Senior Director for European Affairs, 2007-2009), U.S. Embassy in Baghdad (Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff, 2006-2007), and Atlantic Council of the United States (Vice President and Director, International Security Program, 2009-2011; Executive Vice President, 2011 – to present).

Tiberiu Dianu

Wilson has been decorated by the Presidents of Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, and Poland for his efforts to advance transatlantic relations. He frequently speaks and writes on European foreign policy and security issues.

Currently, Damon Wilson lives and works in Washington, D.C.

On October 4, 2019, Damon Wilson attended the annual ALIANTA/The Alliance Gala at the Romanian Embassy, in Washington, DC. https://alianta.org/

With that occasion Mr. Wilson granted me an exclusive interview.

1. Mr. Damon Wilson, you are the Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council. Would you briefly describe this think tank and its more recent activities?

Sure. The Atlantic Council is, really, it’s more than a think tank. The Atlantic Council is a community of people that are really committed to the idea of strong, principled U.S. leadership in the world, working with our allies and partners to solve big global challenges. Our whole mission is not just to be a think tank and analyze the world. Our mission is to help shape a better future together. And I think that’s what sort of distinguishes the Atlantic Council, as a place that grew out of the ashes of World War II, the failures that we’ve learned from our policies of whatever trench man. And it’s really committed to American engagement in a constructive way in the world, working with friends of allies.

2. Thank you so much, Sir. You are a well-known expert on NATO, transatlantic relations and European defense. President Donald Trump has signaled that NATO should be reformed. What is your approach?

So, look…as a champion and a strong believer in the NATO Alliance, it’s always very healthy for us to think about how to improve and how to make this alliance stronger. And so, some of the questions the President has asked are fair. What’s its role in counter-terrorism, how do you get the right balance of defense spending and burden sharing, those are fair issues. On the other hand, the approach that the President has sometimes stated with his rhetoric, his tone, has not always been the most constructive in building confidence in the alliance. Deterrence, after all, is not just capability, but it’s capability with resolve. And part of making this alliance strong is being able to lead it, to be a constructive catalytic leader of other allies. It’s, what I think, the United States itself has a lot to do to improve its management, its leadership to the alliance, even as we expect our NATO allies to step up to the plate and do more in terms of their own defense investments for their own interests.

3. Fair enough. The last question, Sir: in terms of European defense, how do you see countries like Romania and Republic of Moldova facing challenges like Russia or the Ukraine situation in the foreseeable future?

Sure. I think Romania is at the heart of the very important geostrategic and security dimension that is unfolding out the region. Romania is one of our most incredible star-war allies. Despite political drama sometimes here, in the United States, and despite political drama sometimes in Romania, our alliance is strong, it’s enduring, it’s permanent, and it expands the political spectrum. That’s a good thing, it’s healthy. We count on Romania as a major power in South East Europe, as a force and anchor of stability and security. What they can think about, how to project that stability and security, whether it’s working with us on anchoring Serbia in Europe, whether helping us to extend our engagement influence across the Black Sea to places like Georgia and to Ukraine, or very much partnering with us in insuring that the Republic of Moldova can determine its own destiny as part of the West. So, right now, I think Moldova has an incredible opportunity for watching interesting political changes there. I think we need to be consistent in standing by a painful process of reform the development in the Republic of Moldova, extend a very open hand. We want to see this country advance its European Union aspirations. And, while we respect its decision about its own security pasture, I think there is so much more than the United States, Romania and NATO can be doing to support the Republic of Moldova in building its own security apparatus, its own armed forces, its ability to protect its own territorial integrity. We need to solve Transnistria.

4. Yes, of course. Thank you so much, Mr. Wilson.

Thank you, Tiberiu.

Tiberiu Dianu has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, D.C. and can be followed on Medium. https://medium.com/@tdianu

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