The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
Dr. Karen Donfried recently stepped down as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. In that role, she served as Secretary of State Blinken’s top adviser on Europe and Eurasia, crafted U.S. policy on the region, negotiated with key foreign officials, testified before Congress, engaged with media, represented the State Department in interagency meetings and at public events, and led the largest regional bureau at State with 12,000 employees covering 50 countries during Russia's war against Ukraine.
Prior to this role, she served as president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening transatlantic cooperation through policy analysis, fellowships for next generation leaders, and support for civil society. GMF is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has seven offices in Europe. Before leading GMF in April 2014, Donfried was the special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council at the White House. In that capacity, she was the president’s principal adviser on Europe and led the interagency process on the development and implementation of the president’s European policies. Prior to the White House, Donfried served as the national intelligence officer (NIO) for Europe on the National Intelligence Council, the intelligence community’s center for strategic thinking. As NIO, she directed and drafted strategic analysis to advance senior policymakers’ understanding of Europe. Donfried first joined GMF in 2001 after having served for ten years as a European specialist at the Congressional Research Service. From 2003-2005, she was responsible for the Europe portfolio on the U.S. Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff. She returned to GMF from 2005 to 2010, first as senior director of policy programs and then as executive vice president.
Donfried is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Council on Germany. Donfried served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University from 2016 to 2021, and on the Strategic Committee of Sciences Po’s Paris School of International Affairs from 2017 to 2021. She was a board member of the American Friends of the Munich Security Conference and of the American Ditchley Foundation from 2020 to 2021. From 2017 to 2020, she served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Wesleyan University, her undergraduate alma mater. She was a member of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board from 2014 to 2017. From 2014 to 2016, Donfried served as vice chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the United States and then became a member of WEF’s Europe Council. Donfried has a PhD and MALD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a Magister from the University of Munich, Germany. She holds a bachelor’s in government and German from Wesleyan University. She became a commander of the Order of the Crown of Belgium in 2020 and an officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2018, received the Cross of the Order of Merit from the German Government in 2011 and a Superior Honor Award from the U.S. Department of State in 2005 for her contribution to revitalizing the transatlantic partnership. Donfried is fluent in German.Last Updated: