Tag Archives: Kennan Institute

20 Years as Executive Director – Looking Back, Looking Forward

Lara Iglitzin headshot arms sm fileThis week marks 20 years for me at the helm of the Jackson Foundation.  I’m proud and honored to have served as Executive Director for two decades.  During my tenure, I’ve had the good fortune to work with my dedicated Board members and great staff on any number of meaningful activities.

My personal highlight reel includes a 1995 Jerusalem conference celebrating the ground-breaking Jackson-Vanik Amendment  — which helped over a million Soviet Jews emigrate from the USSR.  That conference attracted hundreds of Soviet Jewish emigres now living in Israel as well as a host of Israeli and American politicians, including the late Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin, who was assassinated only months later.  Since I wrote my Master’s thesis on Senator Jackson’s legislation and the story behind it, that conference had tremendous significance for me.  The famous Jewish dissident from the Soviet era, Natan Sharansky, worked closely with us on the conference, and our Chairman, Helen Jackson, joined us in Jerusalem.  It was unforgettable.

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Helen Jackson, Lara Iglitzin, and Natan Sharansky in Jerusalem in 1995

I’ve also reflected on the role that the Foundation has played to strengthen the Jackson School at the University of Washington.  Dozens of policy conferences, graduate fellowships, the Jackson Professorship, the Golub Chair, lecture series, the new PhD program, the Helen Jackson Chair in Human Rights – we’ve helped usher in key changes at the Jackson School.  As a graduate of the School, it has meant a lot to me to help the University do what it does best:  provide first-class education to young people, in this case our future leaders in international policy.  It has been a richly rewarding relationship, one that makes me highly value the intellectual depth of the faculty at the Jackson School.

Lara meets with Jackson School students
Lara meets with Jackson School graduate students this fall.

We started supporting human rights in Russia over 20 years ago – after the break-up of the Soviet Union.  In the more than two decades since, we’ve watched the ups and downs of civil society in Russia with alarm, and our grant making and programs have changed dramatically in response to events.  That’s a sadness to remark upon, given the downward trend in rights under Putin’s Russia.  We are still raising our voice on that front, however! Last year we brought a group of civil society leaders from Russia to Seattle and Washington, DC under a grant from the U.S. State Department.  This trip was inspirational for the delegation and continues to provide encouragement and ideas for these dedicated individuals back in Russia today.

Jackson Foundation 2014 Russian NGO Delegation
Jackson Foundation 2014 Russian NGO Delegation in Seattle

Lately we have two new programs which have galvanized the Board and staff:  the first is helping to lend our resources and intellectual fire-power to the climate change world, focusing particularly on the national and global security implications for the U.S. around climate.  The Jackson name lends credence and balance to discussions on this critical issue.  We are helping to leverage our work by highlighting the military viewpoint and bringing other foundations to the table.  This is a new area for me and it has been wonderful to be challenged to learn more about the climate field.

Washington D.C. Climate Change and National Security Briefing
Washington D.C. Climate Change and National Security Briefing

Second, we have launched an initiative to train a new generation of Jackson-inspired young people, with the launch of the Jackson Leadership Fellows Program.  It’s been invigorating to choose and begin to mentor the eight outstanding young professionals who comprise our first class here in Seattle.  I’ve been energized by my interactions with each of them and feel it is one of the most exciting initiatives that the Foundation has embarked upon.

Jackson Fellows with Anna Marie Jackson Laurence and Foundation President John Hempelmann
Jackson Fellows with Anna Marie Jackson Laurence and Foundation President John Hempelmann

It’s easy for me to think of the extended Jackson community as a family – one that includes our Board members, past and present, as well as former and current staff members of the Foundation, and “Scoop’s Troops” – those who worked with Jackson on his own staff or on one of his committee staff positions.  It also comprises our many partners and grantees over the years, at the Jackson School, the National Bureau of Asian Research, the Kennan Institute, City Club Seattle, and countless other colleagues.  It’s an engaging group and one that has a remarkable cohesion because of the respect for Senator Jackson that unites everyone.  It has made this a great place to work.

One thing I’ve learned at the Foundation over the course of the last twenty years– while the specific programs may change, the work in international affairs, environment and energy, human rights and public service still are highly relevant in today’s world.

I look forward to working together with all of you to carry on the Jackson legacy.  I hope you’ll get in touch.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Sanctions and Russia: Europe and the U.S. Take Stock

“Vladimir Putin is not the man we hoped he would be or we thought he would be.”  David J. Riley, 1st Secretary, foreign and security policy, British Embassy to the U.S., made this remark on a fascinating panel discussion in Seattle about Russian sanctions and the future of the U.S.-EU and Russia relationship convened by the Jackson Foundation, in partnership with the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle, in early October.  William Pomeranz, deputy director of the Washington, DC-based Kennan Institute, and Nelson Dong, partner, Dorsey & Whitney, head of its National Security Law Group, also joined the panel.  I moderated the discussion, which veered toward the pessimistic, particularly in light of the very recent Russia move into the Syrian conflict.

Shot with DxO ONE
Panelists David Riley and Nelson Dong

There was considerable speculation about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motives, both in seizing Crimea and moving into Eastern Ukraine, and in the Syrian situation.  “Putin wants to show that Russia is a major international player,” Pomeranz said, and Riley agreed, adding “Putin’s isolation [due to Western sanctions] has hurt him the most.  He wants to remind everyone that he matters.”

Nelson Dong confirmed that in his assessment of the business sector, sanctions have hurt Russia considerably and noted that the policy was deliberately crafted to hit certain areas:  “The sanctions against Russia are unlike those in the past against Cuba and Iran.  The Russian sanctions are extraordinarily targeted.” His conclusion:  “Sanctions, along with reduced oil prices, have resulted in a recession in Russia.”

Will Pomeranz and Panelists
Left to Right:  Lara Iglitzin, Will Pomeranz, David Riley, and Nelson Dong

Will Pomeranz agreed that Russia has suffered internally due to its aggressive foreign policy and tied Putin’s latest moves in Syria to the worsening economic situation in Russia: “With the growing economic recession, there is a need to distract public attention away from that issue.  On television, the government is showing all Syria, all the time” in a deliberate policy to change the conversation.

Pomeranz and Riley, when asked about the possibility of a split between the EU and the U.S. on Russia policy, agreed that, as Pomeranz said, “Putin is the great unifier – he has unified the EU in their actions to undertake sanctions against Russia; he has unified what is left of the Ukraine against him.  Even in the halls of Congress Putin has caused unity!”

There was a clear consensus that Putin had caused the West to rethink its relationship with Russia, moving from a view of Moscow as a strategic partner to that of a “strategic competitor,” in Riley’s words.  The increasing crackdown on civil society in Russia, something that the Jackson Foundation has been closely monitoring in the human rights and NGO sector there, provides the backdrop for the uptick in tensions between the U.S., Europe and Russia moving forward.

This will be one of several events this year that the Jackson Foundation will convene in Seattle relating to heightened concerns about Russia’s behavior at home and abroad.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director