Secretary A. Wess Mitchell, A Texas Tech University College of Arts & Sciences alumnus, delivers remarks after being sworn-in by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 2, 2017.
Alumnus A. Wess Mitchell Oversees
U.S. Ambassadors in Europe, Eurasia
A. Wess Mitchell (BA History, Political Science, TTU 2001) took the oath of office as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs on Oct. 12, 2017. In this position, Secretary Mitchell is responsible for diplomatic relations with 50 countries in Europe and Eurasia, and with NATO, the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Mitchell is a self-described sixth-generation Texan and the first in his family in more than 150 years to leave the state of Texas and pursue a career north of the Red River. When his nomination to the new post came before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in September, Mitchell had the backing of Texas Senator John Cornyn.
"In the State Department, the Assistant Secretary is seen as a very high-level, very important position," said Ambassador Tibor Nagy, Texas Tech's vice provost for international affairs. "The current administration has not filled many of these positions, and it's a real boon for Texas Tech to have an assistant secretary who graduated from here. It shows what a good job Texas Tech does with its graduates."
But although this Red Raider's roots are Texas deep, he developed his considerable experience on the Continent. Going back two decades, he has lived in Europe, researched its history and geopolitics, and completed his Ph.D. in Political Science at the Otto Suhr Institut für Politikwissenschaft at Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany.
Fluent in German, Mitchell also has studied the Dutch and Czech languages. He earned his M.A. from the Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, where he was awarded the 2004 Hopper Award. And he received a certificate in EU Studies from the American Consortium on European Union Studies.
"Twelve years ago, I co-founded the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a leading think-tank widely recognized for the quality and breadth of its research on Central Europe," Mitchell told the Senate Committee during his Senate testimony. "As President and CEO, I have overseen CEPA's growth into a truly transatlantic organization, with offices in Washington and Warsaw and personnel in several European countries. In this role, I have built close and effective relationships with senior leaders across the NATO Alliance."
His role at CEPA saw Mitchell working hand-in-hand with three previous Assistant Secretaries and staff of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs—and with many of the Senate Committee members gathered to vote on his appointment, to help craft recent pieces of legislation affecting America's relations with Europe and Russia.
In addition, Mitchell has served on numerous policy boards in the United States and Europe. He also has co-authored two books: "Unquiet Frontier: Vulnerable Allies, Rising Rivals and the Crisis of American Power" (Princeton University Press 2016) and "The Godfather Doctrine: A Foreign Policy Parable" (Princeton University Press 2009).
Mitchell has said that what animates his work is the belief that America's alliances are the backbone of this country's strength and influence as a great power. He views his central task as the preservation and strengthening of the Western alliance to ensure that the next generation is able to enjoy the benefits of peace and abundance that the current generation has known.
"Succeeding in that task will require us to confront the pressures bearing down upon Europe from the east and south, as well as the crisis of confidence inside Western societies," Mitchell said in his Senate testimony, the full text of which appears in this link.
Mitchell's urgent priorities, according to his Senate testimony, include:
NATO ARTICLE 5
"Our allies, especially frontline states between the Baltic and Black Seas, must know that the defense of the West rests on an unwavering covenant. To be credible, it requires a strong forward posture. And a willingness by all allies, including the largest and wealthiest European states, to bear their full share in defense spending," he told the Senate."
"The fight against ISIS must also be an urgent priority for U.S. diplomacy in Europe. Since 2014, there have been more than 150 attacks plotted or carried out on European soil. We must do more to stop this insidious threat."
"In both the east and south, we must be sober-minded about Russia. It is in the interests of the American and Russian peoples to lower tensions between the world's two largest nuclear powers. At the same time, the Russian government must understand that a return to normal relations will be impossible as long as it attacks its neighbors, abuses its people and attempts to undermine confidence in America's institutions and those of our allies."
"We must maintain a common approach with the European Union as a global partner, work closely with allies on Syria, Iran and North Korea, and rally support for the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan. And we must work to keep Turkey, long the linchpin of NATO's southern flank, firmly anchored in the transatlantic community."
"I will work to strengthen the trillion-dollar transatlantic economy that ;gives jobs to millions of Americans. I will build on the Administration's efforts to help Europe enhance its energy security through diversification of energy sources and routes. And I will highlight the viability of American LNG (liquified natural gas) as an option for these diversification efforts."
"...we must be clear about what we stand for as an alliance. The glue that holds us together is greater than a treaty or set of institutional 'rules.' It is the glue of a common civilization—the West—grounded in freedom, democracy, and rule-of-law, and united by bonds of memory, culture and shared sacrifice. As Secretary (of State Rex) Tillerson has said, 'American leadership requires moral clarity.' We are open and free societies, and we welcome those who wish to join our alliance. We are strongest when our values and those of our allies are aligned, and when we hold our rivals accountable for human rights abuses at home. Whatever America seeks to do in the world, we are more apt to succeed when the West acts together."