Stephen J. Flanagan

Photo of Stephen Flanagan
Senior Political Scientist
Washington Office


Ph.D. in international relations, Fletcher School, Tufts University; A.B. in political science, Columbia University

Media Resources

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Stephen J. Flanagan is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. He served in several senior positions in government, most recently as special assistant to the president and senior director for defense policy and strategy at the National Security Council (NSC) Staff from April 2013 to September 2015. Between 1989 and 1999 he served as special assistant to the president and senior director for Central and Eastern Europe, at the NSC Staff; associate director and member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff; and national intelligence officer for Europe. Early in his career, he was a professional staff member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He held the Kissinger Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) from 2007 until 2013, where he also served as senior vice president and director of the International Security Program. From 2000 to 2007 he was director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies and vice president for research at the National Defense University. He has also held research and faculty positions at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and the National War College. Flanagan has published six books and over sixty reports and journal articles on transatlantic, international security, and defense issues, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He earned an A.B. in political science from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in international relations from the Fletcher School, Tufts University.

Recent Projects

  • Russia, NATO, and Black Sea Security Strategy
  • Turkey's Nationalist Course: Implications for the U.S.-Turkish Strategic Partnership
  • Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States Through Resilience and Resistance
  • Stability and Messaging in the Space Domain

Selected Publications

, Turkey’s Nationalist Course, Implications for the U.S.-Turkish Strategic Partnership and the U.S. Army, Rand Corporation (RR-2589), 2020

"“Sustaining the Promise of Mainz,"," in Ed. by Sławomir Dębski and Daniel S. Hamilton, Europe Whole and Free, Warsaw: Polish Institute of International Affairs; Washington: Transatlantic Leadership Network , 2019

"“NATO From Liaison to Enlargement: A Perspective from the State Department and the National Security Council, 1990-1999.”," in Edited by Daniel S. Hamilton and Kristina Spohr. , Open Door: NATO and Euro-Atlantic Security After the Cold War, Washington, DC: Foreign Policy Institute/Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins University SAIS, , 2019

, Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States Through Resilience and Resistance, Rand Corporation (RR-2779), 2019

, "The Turkey, Russia, Iran Nexus: Eurasian Power Dynamics," The Washington Quarterly, (Winter), 2013

, Defense in an Age of Austerity: Implications for Transatlantic Power Projection and Strategic Cooperation, German Marshall Fund of the U.S., 2012

Stephen J. Flanagan and Heather A. Conley, A Diminishing Transatlantic Partnership? The Impact of Financial Crisis on European Defense and Foreign Assistance Capabilities, CSIS Press, 2011

Stephen J. Flanagan, James A. Schear, Eds., Strategic Challenges: America's Global Security Agenda, National Defense University and Potomac Books, 2007

Honors & Awards

  • Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2007)
  • Meritorious Service and Superior Honor Award (1992,1998), Department of State
  • High decorations for contribution to bilateral and transatlantic relations (2000), President of Poland and President of Romania



Recent Media Appearances

Video Interviews: BBC News; C-SPAN Washington Journal; Defense and Aerospace Report; KJZZ-FM Online


  • Soldiers from the Norwegian Army prepare their tank during a military drill in Setermoen, Norway, October 30, 2019, photo by Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

    How Norway's Allies View Its Defense Challenges and Opportunities

    Norway's Ministry of Defence will shortly publish its next Long Term Plan, which outlines how the Armed Forces, in tandem with other elements of government and society, can best address the threats to Norway. Other countries can learn from how Norway chooses to tackle emerging challenges, and can benefit from its lessons learned.

    Apr 16, 2020 Defense News

  • A view shows Russian warships and a sailing vessel during a rehearsal for the Navy Day parade in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea July 26, 2019, photo by Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters

    Russia's Strategy in the Black Sea: How NATO Can Up Its Game

    In March 2019, RAND brought together a group of security experts to discuss Russia's strategy in the Black Sea region, and what Western countries can do to protect common interests and counter Moscow's malign influence there.

    Sep 24, 2019 The RAND Blog

  • Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) shakes hands with U.S President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, May 16, 2017

    A Turning Point in U.S-Turkish Relations?

    While Turkish President Erdogan and U.S. President Trump emphasized the positive aspects of bilateral relations after their meeting, there remain points of contention. The stakes at this meeting and its outcome are high for both Turkey and the United States, and could mark a major milestone in the relationship.

    May 21, 2017 U.S. News & World Report

  • A Lithuanian army soldier holds the national flag during the NATO Force Integration Unit inauguration event in Vilnius, Lithuania, September 3, 2015

    'If You Want Peace, Prepare for Resistance'

    Lithuania's government issued a guide on how its citizens can resist a potential Russian invasion and occupation. Resistance is a key element of the “Total Defense” strategy all three Baltic states have been pursuing, spurred on by Russian aggression.

    Nov 22, 2016 The National Interest

  • The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman transits the Atlantic Ocean on a deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts

    NATO's Russia Problem: The Alliance's Tough Road Ahead Post-Warsaw Summit

    NATO emerged from Warsaw more unified than some had predicted it would, especially after the shock of Brexit. But with strained economies, rising populism, and persistent threats from the East and the South, NATO still faces an uphill battle.

    Jul 13, 2016 The National Interest

  • Ukrainian and U.S. Sailors aboard of the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) work together on the forecastle of the ship as it departs Sevastopol Jan 30, 2012.

    The Growing Importance of Black Sea Security

    The U.S. and NATO response to Russia's more assertive policy in Europe since 2014 has focused heavily on deterring possible Russian threats to the Baltic region. As allies take steps to strengthen defense of the Baltic region, they need to pay increased attention to enhancing security and deterrence in the Black Sea area.

    Jul 11, 2016 U.S. News & World Report