Championing the Frontlines of Freedom: Erasing the “Grey Zone”

October 18, 2018 - 9:00 am

Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor
Washington, DC
Please join the Atlantic Council for an event entitled Championing the Frontlines of Freedom: Erasing the “Grey Zone” on October 18, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Atlantic Council headquarters (1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, West Tower Elevators).

The countries of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine stand at a crossroads. Perched between Russia and the West, they have chosen a path of economic and political reform and closer relations with the West. They face substantial challenges dealing with the systemic legacy of the Soviet period as they pursue reform, while also confronting Kremlin interference in their affairs and occupation of their land. Once described as part of a geopolitical “grey zone,” these countries are working to instead be seen as states on the “frontlines of freedom” with futures as free, whole, and secure European states.

At this conference, the Atlantic Council will convene a group of experts to discuss topics such as the historical origins of the so-called “grey zone,” the Kremlin’s use of frozen conflicts, transatlantic policy toward the region, and democratic progress in these states.

This event will include a spotlight address from the Hon. A. Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, on US strategy towards Central and Eastern Europe.

Registration for this conference is now closed. The event will also be streamed live here.
We hope you can join us for this timely discussion.

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Opening Remarks
9:15 – 9:30 a.m.

Mr. Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President, Atlantic Council

Address: The Historical Origins of the Frontlines of Freedom
9:30 – 9:45 a.m.

Dr. Serhii Plokhii, Director, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University

Address: “Grey Zone” Past and Future
9:45 – 9:55 a.m.

The Hon. Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, US Department of State

Fireside Chat
9:55 – 10:45 a.m.

Dr. Serhii Plokhii, Director, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University

The Hon. Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, US Department of State

Moderated by: Dr. Nino Evgenidze, Executive Director, Economic Policy Research Center

Panel I: Frozen Conflicts and the Kremlin’s Agenda
11:00 – 12:30 p.m.

Mr. Denis Cenusa, Researcher, Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Justus-Liebig-Universität

Ambassador John Herbst, Director, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Minister Tinatin Khidasheli, Former Defense Minister, Government of Georgia

Ms. Maria Snegovaya, Adjunct Fellow, Center for European Policy and Analysis; Research Associate, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland 

Ambassador James Warlick, Partner and Senior Policy Adviser, Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners

Moderated byDr. Michael Carpenter, Senior Director, Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement; Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Spotlight Address: Strategy in Central and Eastern Europe
1:15 – 1:30 p.m.

The Hon. A. Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, US Department of State

Introduced byMr. Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President, Atlantic Council

Fireside Chat
1:30 – 2:00 p.m.

The Hon. A. Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, US Department of State

Mr. Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President, Atlantic Council

Panel II: Transatlantic Policy Towards the Region
2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

H.E. David Bakradze, Ambassador of Georgia to the United States

Mr. David Kramer, Senior Fellow, Vaclav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy, Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, Florida International University

Mr. Mark Simakovsky, Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Mr. Alex Tiersky, Senior Policy Adviser, US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Moderated byMs. Melinda Haring, Editor, UkraineAlert, Atlantic Council

Panel III: Democratic Progress in the Frontlines of Freedom
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Mr. Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy

Dr. Laura Jewett, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Eurasia, National Democratic Institute

Mr. George Kent,Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, US Department of State

Mr. Stephen Nix, Regional Director, Eurasia, International Republican Institute

Moderated byMs. Eka Gigauri, Executive Director, Transparency International Georgia


Damon Wilson is executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, serving as both a thought leader and manager with responsibility for strategy and strategic initiatives, program development and integration, and institutional development and organizational effectiveness. From 2007 to 2009, Mr. Wilson served as special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council. Previously, Mr. Wilson served at the US embassy in Baghdad as the executive secretary and chief of staff. Prior to this posting, he worked at the National Security Council as the director for Central, Eastern, and Northern European affairs from 2004 to 2006. From 2001 to 2004, Mr. Wilson served as deputy director of the private office of the NATO secretary general. Mr. Wilson completed his MA at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs, where he also taught an undergraduate policy workshop on implementing NATO expansion.

Serhii Plokhii is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, the director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI), and the editor-in-chief of the MAPA: Digital Atlas of Ukraine project. His research interests include the intellectual, cultural, and international history of Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on Ukraine. He is the author of The Man with the Poison Gun: A Cold War Spy Story (2016); The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine (2015), The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union (2014), and most recently, Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation (2017).

Ambassador Kurt Volker is a leading expert in US foreign and national security policy, with more than thirty years of experience in a variety of government, academic, and private sector capacities. Ambassador Volker serves as executive director of The McCain Institute for International Leadership in Washington, DC, a part of Arizona State University. Ambassador Volker serves in additional roles as a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, a senior adviser at the Atlantic Council, and a trustee of IAU College in Aix-en-Provence, France. He is a consultant to international businesses, a member of the board of directors of CG Funds Trust, and has previously served as managing director, international, for BGR Group. Ambassador Volker previously taught transatlantic relations at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.  In July 2017, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appointed Ambassador Volker as US special representative for Ukraine negotiations.

Nino Evgenidze joined the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC) team in 2004. She has extensive experience working in both governmental and non-governmental sectors. Her previous positions include advisor at the Information Center for Economic Reforms of the State Chancellery of Georgia, head of the public relations department of the Anti-corruption Policy Coordination Council of Georgia, and media coordinator of Parliamentary Assembly Monitoring Missions of the Council of Europe. Dr. Evgenidze was previously a visiting scholar at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a Stanford University Fellow in the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law program. She holds an MA in Economic Policy Management from the London School of Economics and a PhD from Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University.

Denis Cenusa is a researcher at the Institut für Politikwissenschaft and an associated expert at Think Tank ‘Expert-Grup’. He holds a Master’s degree in European Interdisciplinary Studies from the College of Europe (Natolin), Warsaw (2013), and a Master’s degree in political science from the State University of Moldova (2007). His research interests include political economy, European integration, migration, energy security, open governance, and the Eurasian integration initiatives. He was editor-chief of the informative portal from 2009-2012, focusing on European affairs, and in particular the European integration of Moldova, hosted by Soros Foundation Moldova. He also coordinated several projects concerning regional security and bilateral relations between Moldova and Ukraine within East-East Program at Soros Foundation Moldova in 2009 and 2012. He is author and co-author of a range of policy papers, studies, and commentaries related to European integration in Eastern Europe, trade economy, and Eurasian integration processes.

John Herbst is the director of the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center. Ambassador Herbst served for thirty-one years as a foreign service officer in the US Department of State, retiring at the rank of career minister. He was the US ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006. Prior to his ambassadorship in Ukraine, he was the ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2000 to 2003. Ambassador Herbst previously served as US consul general in Jerusalem; principal deputy to the ambassador-at-large for the Newly Independent States; director of the Office of Independent States and Commonwealth Affairs; director of regional affairs in the Near East Bureau; and at the embassies in Tel Aviv, Moscow, and Saudi Arabia. He most recently served as director of the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University. He has received two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards, the Secretary of State’s Career Achievement Award, the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Distinguished Civilian Service Award. Ambassador Herbst’s writings on stability operations, Central Asia, Ukraine, and Russia are widely published.

Tinatin Khidasheli served as minister of defense of Georgia from 2015 to 2016. During her tenure she championed closer cooperation with NATO and the United States. Minister Khidasheli started her career as an office employee of the Parliament of Georgia in 1994. In 1996 she became a program director at Young Lawyers Association where she later became chairwoman. In 2005, she became chairwomen of the Executive Board at Open Society Georgia Foundation. From 2005 to 2010, Minister Khidasheli was an international secretary of the Republican Party of Georgia. In 2010, she became a member of the Tbilisi City Council. She was also elected as a majoritarian deputy for Sagarejo in 2012. After this post, she became chairwomen of the Committee on European Integration at the Parliament of Georgia. Minister Khidasheli received her BA in Law from Tbilisi State University in 1995 and carried on her studies at Central European University. She was a human rights fellow at American University’s Washington College of Law and a World Fellow at Yale University.

Maria Snegovaya is an adjunct fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis and a PhD candidate at Columbia University focusing on the sources of support for the populist parties in the Eastern and Central Europe. Ms. Snegovaya’s main research interests also include Russia's domestic and foreign policy, Ukraine's domestic situation, and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Ms. Snegovaya is the author of several reports and studies, including “Policy Memo: Justifying a Counter-Cyclical US-Russia Policy (the Case of Energy Dependence)” for The Harriman Institute; “Stifling the Public Sphere: Media and Civil Society: Russia” for the National Endowment for Democracy; and “Putin’s Information Warfare in Ukraine. Soviet Origins of Russia’s Hybrid Warfare. Analytical Report” for The Institute for the Study of War. Her publications have appeared in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and The National Interest, among other places. Ms. Snegovaya holds an MA and MPhil in Political Science from Columbia University and a BA in Economics and Finance from Higher School of Economics.

Ambassador James Warlick is managing director at Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners. In this capacity, he works with international companies, focuses on development of strategic client relationships, and provides guidance on legislation and public policy. Ambassador Warlick previously worked for the US government for more than thirty years. His assignments included special envoy and US co-chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group (2013-2016); deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in the office of the Secretary of State; ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Bulgaria; principal deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs; director of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs; director of the United Nations Political Affairs in International Organizations; and Consul General in the US Embassy in Moscow. Ambassador Warlick holds degrees from Stanford University, Oxford University, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Michael Carpenter is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He is also senior director of the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Carpenter is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, the Balkans, and Conventional Arms Control. Prior to joining the Department of Defense, Dr. Carpenter served in the White House as a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and as director for Russia at the National Security Council. Previously, he was a career foreign service officer with the Department of State, where he worked in a number of different positions. He also served abroad in the US Embassies in Poland, Slovenia, and Barbados. During his career at the State Department, Dr. Carpenter received four Superior Honor Awards and three Meritorious Honor Awards. He holds an MA and PhD in political science from the University of California at Berkeley and a BA in international relations from Stanford University. Dr. Carpenter was a Fulbright scholar at the Polish Academy of Sciences and has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, MacArthur Foundation, and IREX Foundation for his academic research.

A. Wess Mitchell was sworn in as assistant secretary of state in October 2017. In this capacity, he is responsible for diplomatic relations with fifty countries in Europe and Eurasia, and with NATO, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Prior to joining the State Department, Dr. Mitchell spent twelve years at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). A co-founder of CEPA, he served as president and CEO from 2009 to 2017 and director of research from 2006 to 2009. From 2013 to 2016, Dr. Mitchell chaired the Europe Working Group for the John Hay Initiative. He also served on advisory boards for several US and European institutes, including the Zbigniew Brzezinski Institute for Geostrategy, the Slovak Atlantic Commission, the Prague Center for Transatlantic Relations, Atlantic Initiative Berlin and the Alexander Hamilton Society. Dr. Mitchell is the author of numerous articles and reports on transatlantic relations and international security and co-author of two books on geopolitics, including most recently Unquiet Frontier: Vulnerable Allies, Rising Rivals and the Crisis of American Power (2016, with Jakub J. Grygiel). His third book, The Grand Strategy of the Habsburg Empire, was published in 2018. Dr. Mitchell hold a PhD in Political Science from the Otto Suhr Institut für Politikwissenschaft at Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany; an MA from the Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, and and a BA in History from Texas Tech University.

Ambassador David Bakradze was appointed ambassador of Georgia to the United States in December 2016. Since 2002, he has served in a number of senior official posts in Georgian public service. Prior to his appointment as ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Bakradze served as the state minister of Georgia for European and Euro-Atlantic integration. In that role, he was in charge of coordinating the Government’s work on implementing key instruments of integration, such as the EU-Georgia Association Agreement (AA), the Eastern Partnership with the EU, and the NATO-Georgia Commission (NGC). He previously served as ambassador to the Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Serbia (2012 – 2014); senior counsellor and chargé d’affaires at the Georgian Embassy in the Republic of Finland (2008 – 2012); and head of the First European Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2005 – 2008), among other senior positions. Ambassador Bakradze graduated from Tbilisi State University with a degree in International Economic Relations and International Law. He speaks Georgian, English and Russian.

David Kramer joined Florida International University’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs as a senior fellow in the Vaclav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy in May 2017. Before moving to Miami, Kramer had worked in Washington, DC for over twenty years, most recently with the McCain Institute for International Leadership as senior director for human rights and democracy. Before that, he served for four years as president of Freedom House. Prior to that, he was a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Kramer served eight years in the US Department of State, including as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor; deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs; professional staff member in the secretary’s Office of Policy Planning; and senior adviser to the undersecretary for global affairs. He has also served as executive director of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy in Washington.

Mark Simakovsky is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, and the vice president of Beacon Global Strategies. Prior to this, he was the chief of staff for Europe and NATO in the office of the secretary of defense for policy. In this capacity, he helped oversee the Department of Defense’s European force posture, regional engagement, deterrence, and reassurance initiatives in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. Mr. Simakovsky began his government career in 2006 as a presidential management fellow in the office of Russian affairs at the US Department of State. In 2008, he became the Eurasia strategy adviser, NATO coordinator, as well as the country director for Georgia and Moldova in the office of the secretary of defense for policy, where he remained until 2012. From 2012 to 2013, he served as the inaugural Ronald D. Asmus nonresident policy entrepreneur fellow at the German Marshall Fund, and in 2013 he was a Brookings Institution congressional national security fellow in the office of Senator Mark Warner. He received his bachelor’s degree from Miami University and his master’s degree from Georgetown University.

Alex Tiersky is a senior policy adviser for the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission). He was first appointed to the Commission as the global security and political-military affairs adviser in May 2016. Mr. Tiersky previously worked as a specialist in foreign affairs at the Congressional Research Service, where he served as an adviser to Members of Congress, leadership, and professional congressional committee staff. Before this, he served as director of the Defense and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. From 2004 to 2007, Mr. Tiersky served as foreign affairs officer and presidential management fellow at the US Department of State. He held various positions with responsibility for US-Russian strategic nuclear issues, conventional arms control and other political-military affairs in Europe, as well as at NATO headquarters in Brussels and on Capitol Hill. Mr. Tiersky has also worked as a researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations. He holds an MA from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins, and degrees from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) and Tufts University.

Melinda Haring is the editor of the UkraineAlert blog, which is the Atlantic Council’s most popular publication. Its articles are regularly republished by Novoe Vremya, Newsweek, The Kyiv Post, Huffington Post, Real Clear Defense, and World Affairs Journal. In 2017, UkraineAlert articles received more 2.7 million views. Ms. Haring is a longtime observer of political developments in the Eurasia region, and her analysis has been featured in The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, The Kyiv Post, PRI, and broadcast and published by NPR, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Voice of America. She is the author of the report Reforming the Democracy Bureaucracy, coauthor of Ukraine’s Internally Displaced Persons Hold a Key to Peace (Atlantic Council, 2017), and a contributor to Does Democracy Matter? (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017). Ms. Haring has worked for the Eurasia Foundation, Freedom House, and the National Democratic Institute, where she managed democracy assistance programs in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia. A graduate of Georgetown University, she holds an MA in Government with a certificate in Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies. Haring is the vice chair of the board of East Europe Foundation in Kyiv, Ukraine, and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. She is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Carl Gershman has served as president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) since its founding in 1984. In addition to presiding over NED’s grants program in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Latin America, he has overseen the creation of the quarterly Journal of Democracy, the International Forum for Democratic Studies, the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program, and the Center for International Media Assistance. Prior to assuming the position with the Endowment, Mr. Gershman was senior counselor to the United States Representative to the United Nations, in which capacity he served as the US representative to the UN’s Third Committee that deals with human rights issues, and also as alternate representative of the US to the UN Security Council. Prior to this, Mr. Gershman was a resident scholar at Freedom House and executive director of Social Democrats, USA. Mr. Gershman has lectured extensively and written articles and reviews on foreign policy issues for such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times Magazine, among others. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Council on Foreign Relations. He has received a number of international awards for his leadership and service. Mr. Gershman holds degrees from Yale University and Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Laura Jewett is the regional director for Eurasia at the National Democratic Institute (NDI). She joined the Institute in 1994 and served as the Eurasia team’s deputy director for ten years. In the region, NDI is currently conducting programs to strengthen civil society and support multiparty democracy in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. To support these programs, Dr. Jewett has traveled extensively in Eurasia, meeting with political, civic and government leaders to assess political conditions and design democracy assistance programs. Before joining NDI, Dr. Jewett served in Washington on the staffs of US Representative Bill Ratchford and US Senator Christopher Dodd. She holds a PhD in political science from Columbia University, where her research focused on political party development in post-Soviet Russia.

George Kent has served as deputy assistant secretary of state since September of 2018. In this position, he focuses on Eastern Europe and the Caucacus. Before this, Mr. Kent served for two years as the deputy chief of mission of the US Embassy in Ukraine. He previously served as as senior anti-corruption coordinator in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, and director for the Office of Europe and Asia programming in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. Mr. Kent joined the foreign service in 1992, and his assignments have spanned Central Europe, Central Asia, and East Asia. His past assignments have included: deputy political counselor in the US Embassy in Ukraine during the “Orange Revolution”; economics officer in Warsaw, Poland; special assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Bangkok; political-military officer at Embassy Bangkok; and consular/general services officer in the then newly established US Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Mr. Kent holds an MS in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces, an MA from Johns Hopkins' School for Advanced International Studies, and a BA in Russian History and Literature from Harvard College.

Stephen Nix joined the International Republican Institute (IRI) in 2000 as regional program director for Eurasia. In this position, he oversees programs in Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. Mr. Nix joined IRI after serving for two years as senior democracy specialist at the US Agency for International Development. He previously served as outside legal counsel for the Committee on Legal Reform in the Ukrainian Parliament and as a member of the Parliamentary Special Committee on the Law on the Election of Deputies in Ukraine. Mr. Nix served as legal counsel to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in Ukraine and Russia and has written extensively on legal and political reforms in the region. Among his publications is The Compendium of Election Laws of Central and Eastern Europe (1994). Mr. Nix received his JD from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1989 and worked in the litigation section of the law firm of Baker & Hostetler from 1989 to 1994. He served on the litigation team for the 2008 John McCain for President Campaign. Prior to entering the practice of law, Mr. Nix served as Midwest field director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Eka Gigauri is the executive director of Transparency International Georgia. Ms. Gigauri joined Transparency International Georgia in 2010, after a career working in foreign relations, marketing, and communications. Her career has involved periods at both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Ministry of International Affairs of Georgia. She also served as deputy head of the Border Police of Georgia, where she was tasked with implementing anti-corruption reforms for the Border Police. In the private sector, she worked at both Marriott International and the Institute for Polling and Marketing. A specialist in international relations, Ms. Gigauri received her bachelor’s degree from Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, an MBA from the Caucasus School of Business, and an LLM from Vrije University Amsterdam. In 2017, she became a Fellow of the Stanford University Democracy and Development Program.