Stephen J. Flanagan

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

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Stephen J. Flanagan is an adjunct senior fellow 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) from 2013 to 2015. Between 1989 and 1999 he served as special assistant to the president and senior director for Central and Eastern Europe at the NSC; associate director and member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff; and national intelligence officer for Europe. He also worked as 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 from 2007 until 2013, and served as senior vice president and director of the International Security Program. He was director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies and vice president for research at National Defense University from 2000 to 2007. He also held research and faculty positions at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and the National War College, and is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. He has published six books and over seventy reports and journal articles on transatlantic, international security, and defense issues. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the editorial Board of International Security. He earned a Ph.D. in international relations from the Fletcher School, Tufts University, and an A.B. in political science from Columbia University. 

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

adjunct professor of security studies, Georgetown University

Recent Projects

  • Russia, NATO, and Black Sea Security Strategy
  • China’s Arctic Ambitions: Implications for Transatlantic Security
  • Toward a Framework of Deterrence in Space Operations
  • Turkey's Nationalist Course: Implications for the U.S.-Turkish Strategic Partnership
  • Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States Through Resilience and Resistance

Selected Publications

Lucia Retter, Stephanie Pezard, Stephen J. Flanagan, Gene Germanovich, Sarah Grand-Clement, Pauline Paille, European Strategic Autonomy in Defence: Transatlantic visions and implications for NATO, U.S. and EU relations, RAND Corporation (RR-A1319-1), 2021

Stephen J. Flanagan, "The Biden Administration’s Strategy on Alliances, Russia, and China," Polish Diplomatic Review (Polski Przegląd Dyplomatyczny), (2), 2021

Gene Germanovich, James Black, Linda Slapakova, Stephen J. Flanagan, Theodora Ogden, Enhancing U.S.-Finnish and regional defence cooperation, RAND Corporation (RR-A1424-1), 2021

Stephen J. Flanagan, Anika Binnendijk, Irina A. Chindea, Katherine Costello, Geoffrey Kirkwood, Dara Massicot, Clint Reach, Russia, NATO, and Black Sea Security, RAND Corporation (RR-A357-1), 2020

James Black, Stephen J. Flanagan, Gene Germanovich, Ruth Harris, David Ochmanek, Marina Favaro, Katerina Galai, Emily Ryen Gloinson, Enhancing deterrence and defence on NATO's northern flank Allied perspectives on strategic options for Norway, RAND Corporation (RR-4381-NMOD), 2020

Stephen J. Flanagan, F. Stephen Larrabee, Anika Binnendijk, Katherine Costello, Shira Efron, James Hoobler, Magdalena Kirchner, Jeffrey Martini, Alireza Nader, Peter A. Wilson, Turkey’s Nationalist Course, Implications for the U.S.-Turkish Strategic Partnership and the U.S. Army, RAND Corporation (RR-2589), 2020

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

Stephen J. Flanagan "NATO From Liaison to Enlargement: A Perspective from the State Department and the National Security Council, 1990-1999," in 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

Honors & Awards

  • Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award (2007), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • 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

Interviews: BBC News; Channel News Asia; Defense & Aerospace Report; Hearst TV; NHK Broadcasting

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


  • Ukrainian service members at a check point after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, February 27, 2022, photo  by Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

    What Kind of Resistance Can Ukraine Mount?

    Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered general mobilization, and Ukrainians are already engaging in irregular warfare and preparing for a prolonged resistance. What might a comprehensive Ukrainian resistance entail? What is the potential effectiveness, and what are the risks? What support could the international community provide?

    Feb 28, 2022 Defense News

  • EU Defence Ministers meet in Brussels, Belgium, November 16, 2021, photo by Mario Salerno/Council of the EU

    U.S. Support for European Strategic Autonomy Could Boost Transatlantic Solidarity and Security

    Leaders of EU member states and institutions have recently renewed calls for Europe to assume a greater role and increased autonomy in transatlantic and global security and defense. How can Europe and the United States work together to reduce misperceptions about strategic autonomy and chart an outcome that could enhance transatlantic solidarity and security?

    Nov 19, 2021 Encompass

  • The United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, July 30, 2020, photo by Frank Michaux/NASA

    Navigating Norms for the New Space Era

    To make better progress on global norms for responsible behavior in space, the U.S. defense and intelligence communities might first consider reaching a consensus among themselves on what these norms should be. Until they reconcile their differences the United States will be less likely be in a position to play a leadership role.

    Feb 8, 2021 The National Interest

  • 3D rendering of earth with red lines representing communication or weapons, photo by DKosig/Getty Images

    How Joe Biden Can Galvanize Space Diplomacy

    The potential for conflicts to originate in outer space, or for terrestrial conflicts to extend there, has grown with the development of counterspace weapons and the explosion of commercial space activity. But previous efforts to establish norms have had limited results. The Biden administration has an opportunity, working with like-minded allies and partners, to galvanize nascent international efforts.

    Jan 15, 2021 Politico

  • 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