Atlantic Council

The Atlantic Council is an American think tank in the field of international affairs, favoring Atlanticism, founded in 1961. It manages sixteen regional centers and functional programs related to international security and global economic prosperity. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is a member of the Atlantic Treaty Association.

Atlantic Council
Atlantic Council of the United States[1]
Formation1961 (1961)
TypeInternational affairs think tank
Legal status501(c)(3)
Headquarters1030 15th Street, NW
12th floor
Washington, DC
John F.W. Rogers
President & CEO
Frederick Kempe
Revenue (2019)
Expenses (2019)$32,590,683[1]
Employees (2019)


The Atlantic Council was founded with the stated mission to encourage the continuation of cooperation between North America and Europe that began after World War II. In its early years, its work consisted largely of publishing policy papers and polling Europeans and Americans about their attitudes towards transatlantic and international cooperation. In these early years, its primary focus was on economic issues—mainly encouraging free trade between the two continents, and to a lesser extent to the rest of the world—but it also did some work on political and environmental issues.[2]

Although the Atlantic Council did publish policy papers and monographs, Melvin Small of Wayne State University wrote that, especially in its early years, the Council's real strength lay in its connections to influential policymakers. The Council early on found a niche as "center for informal get-togethers" of leaders from both sides of the Atlantic, with members working to develop "networks of continuing communication".[2]

The Atlantic Council also works outside Europe and the U.S. It was among the first organizations advocating an increased Japanese presence in the international community. Its Asian programs have expanded since 2001 as a consequence of the war in Afghanistan leading to the opening of its South Asia Center and Program on Asia. Climate change, and coordinating with India and China on these issues, were also a factor in this development.[2][3]

In February 2009, James L. Jones, then-chairman of the Atlantic Council, stepped down in order to serve as President Obama's new National Security Advisor and was succeeded by Senator Chuck Hagel.[4] In addition, other Council members also left to serve the administration: Susan Rice as ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke as the Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, General Eric K. Shinseki as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Anne-Marie Slaughter as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. Four years later, Hagel stepped down to serve as US Secretary of Defense. Gen. Brent Scowcroft served as interim chairman of the organization's Board of Directors until January 2014, when former ambassador to China and governor of Utah Jon Huntsman Jr.[5] was appointed.

In 2017, Tom Bossert, previously a Nonresident Zurich Cyber Risk Fellow at the Atlantic Council's Cyber Security Initiative, was appointed Homeland Security Advisor to the Trump administration.[6][7][8]

The Digital Forensic Research Lab was founded in 2016,[9] to study disinformation in open source environments and report on democratic processes. The leading donors of the project and the think tank, in general, are currently Facebook, after a 2018 sum was donated, and the government of Great Britain.[10]

In 2019, the Atlantic Council entered into a partnership with the Hungary Foundation, a group funded by the authoritarian Orbán government in Hungary. A series of strategy discussions was planned which would have included key US and Central Europe officials. In a meeting in Budapest that year, Atlantic Council members criticized Hungarian Foreign Ministry officials for limiting discussion of the state of democracy in Hungary. Following this, the Hungary Foundation canceled the project. In 2020, the Atlantic Council returned a grant from the Hungary Foundation and ended its relationship with the foundation.[11]

Connections and funding

The Atlantic Council has, since its inception, stated it is a nonpartisan institution, with members "from the moderate internationalist wings of both parties" in the United States.[2] Despite its connections, the Council is by charter independent of the U.S. government and NATO, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.[2]

In September 2014, Eric Lipton reported in The New York Times that since 2008, the US organization had received donations from more than twenty-five foreign governments. He wrote that the Atlantic Council was one of a number of think tanks that received substantial overseas funds and conducted activities that "typically align with the foreign governments’ agendas".[12]

The Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East was established with a donation from Bahaa Hariri and its founding head was Michele Dunne. After Mohamed Morsi was removed as President of Egypt by the military in 2013, Dunne urged the United States to suspend military aid to Egypt and called Morsi’s removal a "military coup". Bahaa Hariri complained to the Atlantic Council about Dunne's actions and four months later Dunne resigned her position.[12]

In 2014, The Atlantic Council produced a report promoting the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) — a proposed trade-accommodation agreement between the European Union and the U.S. — with the financial backing of FedEx, who were simultaneously lobbying Congress directly to decrease transatlantic tariffs.[13]

In 2015 and 2016, the three largest donors, giving over $1 million USD each, were US millionaire Adrienne Arsht (executive vice chair[14]), Lebanese billionaire Bahaa Hariri (estranged brother of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri[15]), and the United Arab Emirates.[16][17] The Ukrainian oligarch-run Burisma Holdings donated $100,000 per year for three years to the Atlantic Council starting in 2016.[18] The full list of financial sponsors includes many military, financial, and corporate concerns.[19]

The leading donors in 2018 were Facebook and the British government.[10] According to the Council, of its 2019 revenue, 14% (approximately $5.5 million) came from government donors excluding the US government.[20]

In 2021, the founding donor was Adrienne Arsht, and donors giving more than $1 million were the American Securities Foundation, Bahaa Hariri, Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.[21]


The Atlantic Council creates a meeting place for heads of state, military leaders, and international leaders from both sides of the Atlantic. In 2009, the Council hosted former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's first major U.S. speech, in which he discussed issues such as NATO's mission in the War in Afghanistan, NATO cooperation with Russia, and the broader transatlantic relationship.[22][23] Members of the U.S. Congress have also appeared, including Senator Richard Lugar and Secretary of State John Kerry.[24][25][26] The Council hosts events with sitting heads of state and government, including former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili,[27][28] Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk,[29][30] and former Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga.[31][32][33]

Since January 2007, the Council has hosted military leaders from both sides of the Atlantic. The council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security has, held periodic events known as the Commanders Series, where it invites military leaders from the United States and Europe to speak about conflicts of interest to the Atlantic community.[34] As part of the Commanders Series, American military leaders such as former General George Casey[35][36] and former Admiral Timothy Keating[37][38] and European leaders like former French Chief of Defense General Jean-Louis Georgelin[39][40] and Dutch Lieutenant General Ton van Loon[41][42] have spoken on issues such as the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, and security threats in Asia and Africa.

Its annual events include the Distinguished Leadership Awards in Washington, DC; the Future Leaders Summit;[43][44] the Wroclaw Global Forum in Wroclaw, Poland;[45] the Atlantic Council Energy & Economic Summit in Istanbul, Turkey;[46] and the Global Citizen Awards in New York City.[47][48]

On February 22, 2019, the Atlantic Council released its Declaration of Principles at the Munich Security Conference. Frederick Kempe, President and CEO of the Atlantic Council, said it was "an effort to rally and reinvigorate 'free peoples' around the world".[49]

Programs and centers

A 2019 Atlantic Council NATO panel, including Congressman Ruben Gallego

The Atlantic Council's programs and subdivisions include:[50]

  • Young Atlanticist Network
  • Program on Transatlantic Relations
  • Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security
  • GeoEconomics Center
  • Freedom and Prosperity Center
  • South Asia Center
  • Energy and Environment
  • Eurasia Center
  • Africa Center
  • Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Middle East programs
  • Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center
  • Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience
  • Digital Forensic Research Lab


Jon Huntsman, Former Chairman
Fred Kempe, President
  • John F.W. Rogers, Chairman
  • David McCormick, Chairman, International Advisory Board
  • Frederick Kempe, President and CEO
  • James L. Jones, Jr., Executive Chairman Emeritus
  • Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President
  • Adrienne Arsht, Executive Vice Chair
  • Stephen J. Hadley, Executive Vice Chair
  • Robert J. Abernethy, Vice Chair (Executive Committee)
  • Richard Edelman, Vice Chair (Executive Committee)
  • C. Boyden Gray, Vice Chair (Executive Committee)
  • Alexander Mirtchev, Vice Chair (Executive Committee)
  • John Studzinski, Vice Chair (Executive Committee)
  • Jason Healey, Director, Cyber Statecraft Initiative[51]
  • Peter Schechter, Director, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center
  • Rama Yade, Director, Africa Center
  • John E. Herbst, Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center
  • David Koranyi, Director, Eurasian Energy Futures Initiative, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center
  • Mathew Burrows, Director, Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative

Notable directors

Honorary directors

Notable senior fellows


In 2016, the Atlantic Council drew criticism from the founder of the Human Rights Foundation for its decision to award a Global Citizen Award to Ali Bongo Ondimba.[53] Bongo declined the award amidst controversy over the 2016 Gabonese presidential election.[54][55]

In July 2019, Russia said the activities of the Atlantic Council pose a threat to the foundations of its constitutional system and the security of the Russian Federation. Russia added the Atlantic Council to its list of "undesirable" organizations, preventing it from operating within Russia.[56]


The Atlantic Council produces publications and issue briefs about global policy issues ranging from NATO's global role to energy security.[57]

See also


  1. "Form 990 - Atlantic Council of the United States" (PDF). Internal Revenue Service. 3 November 2020. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  2. Small, Melvin (1 June 1998). "The Atlantic Council--The Early Years" (PDF). NATO. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  3. "Admiral Timothy Keating Event Transcript". Atlantic Council. 29 June 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  4. Allen, Mike (11 February 2009). "Politico Playbook - Exclusive: Senator Hagel succeeds Gen. Jones at Atlantic Council". Politico. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  5. Howell, Tom (16 January 2014). "Jon Huntsman tapped as Atlantic Council chairman". The Washington Times. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  6. "Thomas P. Bossert".
  7. "Thomas P. Bossert | Trinity Cyber®".
  8. Geller, Eric. "Trump picks Tom Bossert as homeland security adviser". POLITICO.
  9. The Atlantic Council (website) 'About-Meet our Team' Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  10. Menn, Joseph (7 August 2018). "U.S. think tank's tiny lab helps Facebook battle fake social media." Reuters website Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  11. Vogel, Kenneth P.; Novak, Benjamin (2021-10-04). "Hungary's Leader Fights Criticism in U.S. via Vast Influence Campaign". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-10-04.
  12. Eric Lipton; Brooke Williams; Nicholas Confessore (6 September 2014). "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks". New York Times. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  13. Erik Lipton; Brooke Williams (August 8, 2016). "How Think Tanks Amplify Corporate America's Influence". New York Times.
  14. Council, Atlantic. "Board of Directors". Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  15. Rym Momtaz (December 4, 2017). "ANALYSIS: How the US helped to defuse Saudi Arabia's dangerous gambit with Lebanon". ABC news.
  16. "Honor Roll of Contributors 2015". Atlantic Council. Archived from the original on 17 May 2017. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  17. "Honor Roll of Contributors 2016". Atlantic Council. Archived from the original on 19 May 2018. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  18. Grove, Thomas; Cullison, Alan (7 Nov 2019). "Ukraine Company's Campaign to Burnish Its Image Stretched Beyond Hunter Biden". Retrieved 2 Dec 2019.
  19. "Honor Roll of Contributors 2017". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  20. "Atlantic Council statement on State Department call for think tank funding transparency". Atlantic Council. 2020-10-13. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  21. "2021 Honor roll of contributors". Atlantic Council. 2022-05-10. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  22. NATO Secretary General Rasmussen: First Major U.S. Speech Archived September 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council, 28 September 2009
  23. NATO. "Afghanistan and NATO: The Way Forward - Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Atlantic Council, US". NATO. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  24. Senator Richard Lugar: Congressional Perspective on the Future of NATO Archived September 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council, 28 September 2009
  25. "To stem terror in Pakistan, US looks beyond military". Christian Science Monitor. 2009-03-02. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  26. Kerry and Hagel Unveil Atlantic Council's Pakistan Report Archived July 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council, 25 February 2009
  27. Council Hosts Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Archived February 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council, 24 September 2008
  28. NATO. "Opening remarks by President Saakashvili of Georgia at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Batumi". NATO. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  29. "Webcast: Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk". Atlantic Council. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  30. "Atlantic Council: What's next for Ukraine? A conversation with Arseniy Yatsenyuk | KyivPost - Ukraine's Global Voice". KyivPost. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  31. Young Atlanticist Discussion with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga Archived July 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council, 3 May 2007
  32. NATO. "Speech by the President of Latvia at the Summit meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Istanbul". NATO. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  33. Vīķe-Freiberga, Radek Sikorski And Vaira (2015-09-28). "In Search of New Answers for NATO". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  34. Commanders Series Archived October 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council
  35. General Casey: Complex Operations and Counterinsurgency Archived July 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council, 28 May 2009
  36. "Building the Army of the 21st Century |". Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  37. Admiral Timothy Keating: Asia-Pacific Security Challenges Archived July 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council, 29 June 2009
  38. "Challenges of Asian-Pacific Security |". Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  39. General Jean-Louis Georgelin: France in NATO Archived July 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council, 10 September 2009
  40. "French general: Military force in Iran not viable". NBC News. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  41. Ton van Loon: Taliban Have Lost the War Archived July 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic Council, 5 June 2007
  42. "NDC - News- Workshop on 'The NATO Mission in Afghanistan: Post-2014'". Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  43. "2014 Future Leaders Summit". 1 September 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-09-01. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  44. "Atlantic Council Survey: The Future of NATO". Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  45. "EED Initiatives describe struggle for democracy at Wroclaw Global Forum". European Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  46. "Ross Wilson". Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  47. "Justin Trudeau accepts global citizenship award from Atlantic Council think tank - National |". Global News. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  48. Kempe, Frederick. "The Atlantic Council Did Not Give a Global Citizen Award to Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  49. Kempe, Fred (14 February 2019). "How the US-European alliance can become even stronger in an era of disruption". CNBC. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  50. "Atlantic Council programs". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 2023-01-10.
  51. "Healey, Jason". Retrieved 2014-04-22.
  52. "Irfan Nooruddin". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 2022-02-10.
  53. Thor Halvorssen; Alex Gladstein (19 September 2016). "Why Did the Atlantic Council Even Consider Giving African Dictator Ali Bongo Ondimba a 'Global Citizen Award'?". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  54. Emma Farge (27 September 2016). "Disputed Gabon poll may harm 'global citizen' Bongo". Reuters. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  55. Frederick Kempe (30 September 2016). "The Atlantic Council Did Not Give a Global Citizen Award to Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 28 Dec 2018.
  56. "Американский Атлантический совет признан в России нежелательной организацией". (in Russian). 25 July 2019. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  57. "Publications". Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council. Retrieved 9 December 2014.

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