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The Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies presents

Panel: U.S. Foreign Policy, Geopolitics and Human Rights

Leslie Vinjamuri, Director of the US and Americas Program, and Dean, Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs, Chatham House, Royal Institute of International Affairs; and Associate Professor in International Relations, SOAS, University of London

Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer of PEN America

Alexander Cooley, Director, Harriman Institute; Claire Tow Professor of Political Science Barnard College, Columbia University

Jack Snyder, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Relations, Columbia University

Advance registration required. Registrants will be sent a Zoom link prior to the event.

Friday, March 12, 2021
Saltzman Webinar via Zoom
Registration via the Columbia/SIPA calendars


In a dramatic reversal, democracy and human rights are back at the center of the US foreign policy agenda. This return to a values-led approach puts the spotlight on America’s core differences with its main geopolitical competitors, which are among the world’s leading human rights abusers. Will it be possible to resurrect the idea of a ‘separate track’ strategy in which the US seeks to cooperate with its rivals on the big global challenges—not least pandemic prevention, climate change, and trade and technology—while calling them out for their human rights practices? This panel situates current real world challenges in the US foreign policy agenda in the context of long-standing debates about how best to sequence the goals of human rights advocacy, economic statecraft, and power politics.  In relations with such important powers as China, India, and Saudi Arabia, how should tradeoffs for pushing a human rights agenda be evaluated?  Is there a risk of backlash if the US and its democratic allies promote human rights in such states, or will playing the human rights card burnish the luster of the American brand in world affairs?

Leslie Vinjamuri is Director of the US and the Americas programme and Dean of the Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs at Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs. She is a Reader (Associate Professor) in International Relations at SOAS University of London. At Chatham House, Vinjamuri leads the Lloyd George Working Group on World Order (with Charles A. Kupchan), the Chatham House US 2020 Election Series, and the US-China and Transatlantic Relations Project (with Marianne Petsinger-Schneider). In her capacity as Dean, she oversees the fellowship programme and Next Generation UK work. Vinjamuri writes and speaks about America’s role in the world, human rights and global governance. Her book, Human Rights Futures (edited with Jack Snyder and Stephen Hopgood) was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017. She has also published numerous articles in leading journals of international affairs and is a regular contributor to the international news media. Vinjamuri is a Commissioner for the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission, a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, on the Board of Advisors of the Institute for Integrated Transitions, and on the Advisory Board of LSE IDEAS. From 2015-18, she was a member of the Council (a ‘trustee’) of Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Previously, Vinjamuri worked in the Asia and Near East Bureau at the US Agency for International Development, and for the Congressional Research Service. She was a fellow at Harvard University’s John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and later on the faculty of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. From 2010-2018 she founded, and later was Director of the Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice at SOAS University of London. Vinjamuri has a BA from Wesleyan University (Phi Beta Kappa), an MSc (Distinction) from the London School of Economics, and a PhD from Columbia University.

Suzanne Nossel currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of PEN America, the leading human rights and free expression organization, and she is author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All. Since joining in 2013, she has doubled the organization’s staff, budget, and membership, spearheaded the unification with PEN Center USA in Los Angeles and the establishment of a Washington, D.C. office, and overseen groundbreaking work on free expression in Hong Kong and China, Myanmar, Eurasia, and the United States. She is a leading voice on free expression issues in the United States and globally, writing and being interviewed frequently for national and international media outlets. Her prior career spanned government service and leadership roles in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Human Rights Watch and as Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. During the first term of the Obama Administration, Nossel served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, where she led U.S. engagement in the United Nations and multilateral institutions, on human rights and humanitarian issues. During the Clinton Administration, Nossel was Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where she was the lead negotiator in settling U.S. arrears to the world body. During her corporate career, Nossel served as Vice President of U.S. Business Development for Bertelsmann and as Vice President for Strategy and Operations for the Wall Street Journal. Nossel coined the term “Smart Power,” which was the title of a 2004 article she published in Foreign Affairs Magazine and later became the theme of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure in office. Nossel is the author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All. Nossel is a featured columnist for Foreign Policy magazine and has published op-eds in The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and dozens of other outlets, as well as scholarly articles in Foreign Affairs, Dissent, Democracy, and other journals. Nossel serves on the Board of Directors of the Tides Foundation. She is a former senior fellow at the Century Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Nossel is a magna cum laude graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Alexander Cooley is the Claire Tow Professor of Political Science at Barnard College and Director of Columbia University’s Harriman Institute (2016-18). He also serves on Columbia University’s Tenure Review Advisory Committee (2017-20). Cooley’s research examines how external actors have shaped the development and sovereignty of the former Soviet states, with a focus on Central Asia and the Caucasus. He is author and/or editor of six academic books: Logics of Hierarchy: The Organization of Empires, States and Military Occupations (Cornell 2005; cowinner of 2006 Marshall Shulman Prize), Base Politics­: Democratic Change and the US Military Overseas (Cornell 2008); Contracting States: Sovereign Transfers in International Relations (Princeton 2009), co-authored with Hendrik Spruyt, Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest for Central Asia (Oxford 2012), Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance (Cambridge 2015), co-edited with Jack Snyder of Columbia University. Dictators without Borders: Power and Money in Central Asia (Yale 2017), co-authored with John Heathershaw. Great Games examines US-Russia-China competition for influence in Central Asia and was described by Asia Policy as “possibly the most cogent critique of post-Cold War orthodoxy published to date.” His most recent book Dictators Without Borders explores the rise of “extraterritorial authoritarianism” and how Western professionals support the transnational networks of Central Asian elites. In addition to his academic research, Cooley serves on several international advisory boards and has testified for the United States Congress and the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Cooley’s opinion pieces have appeared in New York Times, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs and his research has been supported by fellowships and grants from the Open Society Foundations, Carnegie Corporation, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, among others. Cooley earned both his MA and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Jack Snyder is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science and the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. His books include Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance (co-editor with Alexander Cooley; Cambridge University Press, 2015); Power and Progress: International Politics in Transition (Routledge, 2012); Religion and International Relations Theory (Columbia, 2011); Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (MIT Press, 2005), co-authored with Edward D. Mansfield; From Voting to Violence: Democratization and Nationalist Conflict (Norton 2000); Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (Cornell, 1991); and Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention, co-editor with Barbara Walter (Columbia, 1999). His articles on such topics as democratization and war, imperial overstretch, war crimes tribunals versus amnesties as strategies for preventing atrocities, and international relations theory after September 11 have appeared in The American Political Science Review, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Organization, International Security, and World Politics. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Snyder received a B.A. in government from Harvard University in 1973, a Certificate from Columbia’s Russian Institute in 1978, and a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia in 1981.