Given Russia’s continuing destabilization of Ukraine, President Obama began the month of June in Europe reaching out to reassure America’s European allies of the United States and NATO’s resolute commitment to the defense and security of Europe. The President’s trip to Poland, Belgium, and France culminated in the announcement of the European Reassurance Initiative. This initiative commits up to one billion dollars for increased exercises, training, and rotational presence across Europe with an emphasis on the Eastern territory of NATO’s newer allies. Overlapping with Obama’s trip, NATO also held its final defense ministerial meeting before the Wales Summit in September. This ministerial was a last chance for NATO’s defense ministers to discuss themes for the upcoming summit.

Immediately following President Obama’s trip to Europe and NATO’s defense ministerial, the Atlantic Council organized an off-the-record member’s call with Jim Townsend, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy. Townsend debriefed the Atlantic Council’s members on the discussions that took place at the June 3-4 defense ministerial, as well as President Obama’s announcement of the European Reassurance Initiative.

Before taking up his current position, Townsend was a Vice President of the Atlantic Council and Director of the Council’s Program on International Security. Jim joined the Atlantic Council after a distinguished career at the Pentagon and at NATO. In the 1990s, Jim was the Principal Director of European and NATO Policy (2003-2006), the Director of NATO Policy (2002-2003) and the Director of the Defense Plans Division at the US Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium (1998-2002). Before beginning his tour at NATO, Mr. Townsend served for eight years (1990-1998) as Deputy Director of European Policy. Prior to his service on the European Policy staff, Mr. Townsend worked in the Defense Security Cooperation Agency as a Country Director for European security assistance and as the assistant to the DSCA Comptroller.