William Courtney

Photo of William Courtney
Executive Director, RAND Business Leaders Forum; Adjunct Senior Fellow
Washington Office

Education

Ph.D. in economics, Brown University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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Overview

William Courtney is an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND Corporation and executive director of the RAND Business Leaders Forum, as well as president of the U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Association. In 2014 he retired from Computer Sciences Corporation as senior principal for federal policy strategy; from 2000 to 2003 he was senior vice president for national security programs at DynCorp (bought by CSC in 2003).

From 1972 through 1999, Courtney was a career foreign service officer in the U.S. Department of State. He co-chaired the U.S. delegation to the review conference that prepared for the 1999 Summit in Istanbul of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He advised on the reorganization of U.S. foreign affairs agencies, mandated by the Foreign Affairs Reform Act of 1999. Earlier in his career, he was special assistant to the President for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia; Ambassador to Georgia, Kazakhstan, and the U.S.-Soviet Bilateral Consultative Commission to implement the Threshold Test Ban Treaty; and deputy U.S. negotiator in U.S.-Soviet defense and space (missile defense) talks. He served abroad in Brasilia, Moscow, Geneva, Almaty, and Tbilisi.

Courtney is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was an international affairs fellow. He belongs to the board of directors of the World Affairs Council of Washington, D.C., and the advisory council of the Eurasia Foundation. He graduated from West Virginia University with a B.A. and Brown University with a Ph.D. in economics.

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

President, U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Association

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: BBC; CTV News, Canada; Fox News; KPCC-FM AirTalk - Southern California Public; Radio Free Europe; Voice of America, Georgian Service

Commentary: Foreign Policy Concepts; Fox News Channel; The Moscow Times; The National Interest; Newsweek; Politico; Reuters; U.S. News & World Report; War on the Rocks; The Woodrow Wilson Center

Commentary

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin watches honor guards during a wreath-laying ceremony near the Kremlin in Moscow, May 9, 2016

    The West Must Do Far More to Keep Putin at Bay

    Russia is more willing than the West to use military power, even though it has less of it. The West should reconsider whether its efforts to deter Russian military interference are enough.

    Aug 27, 2016 Newsweek

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for a personal send-off for members of the Russian Olympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, July 27, 2016

    How to Counter Putin's Subversive War on the West

    Russian cybercrime, Olympics doping, and other active measures have one thing in common: Moscow admits no wrongdoing. These scandals exacerbate the frigid relations between Moscow and the West. Diplomacy sometimes works slowly, but it helps.

    Aug 1, 2016 Newsweek

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, April 26, 2016

    Putin Is Trying to Bully Europe into Dropping Sanctions

    Seeking relief from Western sanctions, the Kremlin is waging a campaign of public distortion and intimidation to split Europe from America, and Europeans from each other. But many of its tactics are clumsy and self-defeating.

    Jun 11, 2016 Newsweek

  • The Ukrainian national guard Azov regiment and activists of the Azov civil corp protest local elections in pro-Russian rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine under the Minsk peace agreement, May 20, 2016

    Russia's Great Power Choice

    The Donbas occupation is straining Russia's economy, world power status, and relationship with the West. Only by pulling out of eastern Ukraine and reforming its economy can Russia gain broader acceptance and reach its potential as a great power.

    Jun 1, 2016 U.S. News & World Report

  • Paratroopers parachute into the opening ceremony of Exercise Noble Partner in Vaziani, Georgia, May 10, 2015

    Georgia's Delicate Foreign Policy Dance

    Given the dangerous environment and the small size and relative military weakness of Georgia, it wisely pursues a good neighbor policy in all directions. Still, the country must improve its defense posture and for Georgia, the main security balancer is the United States.

    May 25, 2016 The National Interest

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a meeting dealing with the commissioning of military products at the National Defense Control Center in Moscow, March 11, 2016

    How Russia Undermines Nuclear Security

    Russian aggression in Ukraine and nuclear saber rattling are jeopardizing the very global nonproliferation efforts that this week's Nuclear Security Summit in Washington seeks to further. Moscow's actions deserve a stronger response than they have received.

    Apr 1, 2016 The National Interest

  • The Moscow Kremlin, Russia

    Russia's Great Power Future

    A penchant for zero-sum statecraft and coercing neighbors lessens Russia's stature. By cooperating more in the international arena, Russia could become a greater power.

    Mar 21, 2016 Newsweek

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Kremlin in Moscow, March 14, 2016

    The West Should Accommodate Russia to Secure Peace with Assad in Syria

    Effective and enduring political settlements result from quid pro quos, not irrational pursuit of one-sided advantage. Recognizing that contending parties have legitimate interests in the complex Syria conflict could help bring an end to a destructive war in a volatile but vital region.

    Mar 18, 2016 U.S. News & World Report

  • A civil defence member works at a site after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, February 14, 2016

    Is a Syria Truce in Putin's Best Interest?

    Moscow remains ambivalent but the West and its Arab partners could improve cease-fire prospects in Syria. They will have to drive the peace process to maintain pressure for political accommodation and also do more to help the rebels they back avert a military imbalance.

    Feb 18, 2016 Newsweek

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin greets spectators at the World Judo Championships in Chelyabinsk

    The Tide Is Going Out on Putin

    Russia is losing ground in domestic politics, economics, and foreign policy. It could take steps to strengthen its position, such as withdrawing from Ukraine, privatizing inefficient state enterprises, and improving the investment climate.

    Jan 25, 2016 Newsweek

  • Georgy Kvirikashvili, who was nominated for the post of Georgia's prime minister on December 25 after Irakly Garibashvili resigned, delivers a speech on December 28, 2015

    Georgia Needs Support from the U.S. and the West

    Georgia is poised to make big changes to reinvigorate its democracy and economy, but it needs support to deter risks and advance progress. With one-fifth of its territory occupied by Russia and facing risks every day, Georgia needs more Western aid, including military training, technology, and defensive arms.

    Jan 5, 2016 U.S. News & World Report

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R), and UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura address the media in Vienna, Austria, November 14, 2015

    Bosnia Was Hard, Syria Is Harder

    To find peace in Syria, cooperation among outside powers will be an essential first step. But before going forward, the great powers should soberly assess prospects for an enduring peace accord, as well as the resources required.

    Nov 16, 2015 Foreign Policy Concepts

  • The remains of a Russian airliner that crashed are found near Al-Arish, Egypt, October 31, 2015

    Could the Russian Jet Crash in Egypt Prompt a Change of Direction for Putin and Russia?

    If ISIS was responsible for the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268, a Russian passenger jet, this may alter the strategic equation for Moscow.

    Nov 9, 2015 Fox News Channel

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin at a session of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi, October 22, 2015

    The West Needs to Take a Tougher Line with Putin

    By responding more robustly to Russia's interventions, the West could reduce military asymmetries in Ukraine and Syria and improve prospects for negotiated outcomes.

    Nov 1, 2015 Newsweek

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, September 30, 2015

    What Is Putin Really Up to in Syria?

    Russia wants to be sure that it's not ignored if and when the West succeeds in implementing a broader, more effective solution to the Syria-Iraq-ISIL problem. This is a task far beyond Russia's capabilities, but one that America, the West, and regional powers may be able to accomplish.

    Oct 2, 2015 Politico

  • The three main members of the Eurasian Economic Union, Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin, meet in Astana March 20, 2015

    Eurasia Facing Tough Choices for the Future

    There is much to be said for Eurasia's rich ethnic, national, religious, and cultural diversity. In the economic sphere, however, Eurasians should reassess bad habits, such as weak property rights, centralized state control, and associated corruption.

    Aug 13, 2015 The Moscow Times

  • Protesters wave Armenian national flags during a rally against a hike in electricity prices in Yerevan, Armenia July 1, 2015

    It's Time to Reboot Our Relationship with Russia and Iran's Neighbors

    In implementing the prospective Iran nuclear agreement, the West cannot forget its engagement in the vulnerable South Caucasus. The Iran deal changes the equation for all three countries and perhaps opens new opportunities.

    Jul 28, 2015 Newsweek

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015

    Iran Deal or No Deal

    A U.S. rejection of the Iran nuclear agreement would send the wrong message, not only to Iran but also to America's closest allies, and it would not serve American interests in the region.

    Jul 22, 2015 War on the Rocks

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) and Colonel-General Oleg Salyukov (R) in Moscow, May 9, 2015

    Will Putin Gamble All on a Broader Ukraine Invasion?

    If the Kremlin is contemplating further action in Ukraine, it faces a tough choice. The decision could have an enduring impact on Russia's fortunes.

    May 26, 2015 Newsweek

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's President Xi Jinping at their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 8, 2015

    How Durable Is the China-Russia 'Friendship?'

    Though China and Russia share key economic interests and oppose what they claim to be a U.S.-dominated world order, their relationship over time promises to be uneven and tense.

    May 13, 2015 Reuters, The Great Debate blog

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a live broadcast nationwide call-in in Moscow April 16, 2015; he said Russian military forces were not in Ukraine, denying allegations that Moscow is providing troops and support for pro-Russian rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine

    Ukraine Crisis Is a Geopolitical Game Changer

    Russia's aggression abroad and repression at home have altered the basic assumptions of earlier Western policy. By misjudging the tolerance for aggression in Europe, Moscow is bringing on the encirclement it fears. The West is now better prepared to deal with any further aggression and more confident that Ukraine's future will be as part of an enlarged Europe.

    Apr 17, 2015 U.S. News & World Report

  • Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, France's President Francois Hollande, and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko at peace talks in Minsk, February 11, 2015

    The Next European Flashpoints

    The West's most pressing task is to help Ukraine defend itself and survive economic catastrophe. But the West also needs a broader strategy to discourage future Russian coercion of neighbors, help them protect themselves, and counter President Vladimir Putin's false narrative about Western intentions and lack of political will.

    Feb 17, 2015 The National Interest

  • Members of the Ukrainian armed forces ride on armoured personnel carriers near Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine, February 12, 2015

    RAND Experts Discuss the Options for Ukraine

    A cease-fire agreement could stop the fighting in Ukraine by Sunday. RAND experts William Courtney and Olga Oliker discuss what was accomplished during the summit in Minsk, whether the U.S. should arm Ukraine, and what other options exist for supporting Ukraine.

    Feb 12, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanges documents with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, December 22, 2014

    Can Eurasian Energy Compete?

    Cheaper oil, government interference, and market dynamics jeopardize the future of Russian and Caspian energy. To be globally competitive, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan should let the private sector play a greater role and make more decisions on commercial, rather than political grounds.

    Jan 16, 2015 The National Interest

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin during his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, December 18, 2014

    How Russia Can Recover from Its Economic and Strategic Decline

    Few expect that Moscow will cede Crimea or end its opposition to NATO expansion anytime soon. But Russia can still begin to reverse its strategic decline. Expanding opportunities for Russia's people, reforming the economy, and improving relations with neighbors are the way forward.

    Dec 24, 2014 U.S. News & World Report

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a speech at the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Nov. 26, 2014, during which she accuses Russia of violating international law with its interventions in Ukraine and said resolving the conflict would require patience

    The Greatest Challenge to U.S.-European Security Cooperation Today: The Ukraine Crisis

    Germany and America are leading Western policy in addressing the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The basic strategy is to support Ukraine and pressure Moscow to halt aggression, while leaving the door open to diplomacy. Sustaining Western unity is essential, but may not be easy to achieve.

    Dec 8, 2014 The National Interest

  • Georgia's President Georgy Margvelashvili waves while flanked by Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili (2nd L), Parliament speaker David Usupashvili (R) and Patriarch Ilia II during celebrations for the signing of an association agreement with the EU in June 2014

    Rough and Tumble of Building Democracy in Georgia

    Leadership squabbles and instincts for retribution are testing Georgia's democracy. If leaders do not come together to strengthen the political system and governance, Georgia's future could hang in the balance.

    Nov 26, 2014 The Woodrow Wilson Center

  • Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev meets with U.S. President Barack Obama during a nuclear security summit in April 2010

    Celebrating the Success of Project Sapphire

    Twenty years ago this week, the United States transported over 600 kilograms of at-risk, weapons-usable highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Kazakhstan to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for safekeeping. Kazakhstan had the courage to trust its new relationship with the U.S. to help prevent the proliferation of dangerous material to countries that might seek to build nuclear weapons.

    Nov 21, 2014 The National Interest

  • A destroyed T-72 tank, which presumably came from Russia, is seen on a battlefield near separatist-controlled Starobesheve in eastern Ukraine October 2014

    Hitting the Pause Button: The 'Frozen Conflict' Dilemma in Ukraine

    Frozen conflicts describe places where fighting took place and has come to an end, yet no overall political solution, such as a peace treaty, has been reached. Ukraine is likely to host such conflicts for some time, in Crimea and the Donbas region. Georgia's experience offers lessons for Ukraine.

    Nov 7, 2014 The National Interest

  • People walking near the Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia

    One Day in the Life of Russia

    Russia faces major challenges, some self-inflicted. Freedoms vital to the creation of a modern civil society are declining. Dominant, state-controlled energy and aerospace companies are losing ground, weakening a strained economy. Russia's relationship with Europe, its most important economic partner and a cultural beacon, is fracturing.

    Sep 23, 2014 The National Interest

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, in Minsk, August 26, 2014

    A Diplomatic Solution for Ukraine

    Despite uncertainty about Russian military plans and the outcome of Ukrainian operations against pro-Russian separatists, it's not too soon to consider how to lay the foundations for a negotiated solution. If Moscow were unwilling to reach a fair settlement, the West would have options to increase its leverage.

    Aug 27, 2014 The National Interest

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