Craig Kennedy has been president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States since 1995. Under his leadership, GMF has focused its activities on bridging U.S.-European differences on foreign policy, economics, immigration and the environment. An aspect of that strategy includes supporting over 20 American and European policy research institutions that are actively involved in shaping transatlantic cooperation.
Kennedy has also expanded GMF’s programs in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. A major accomplishment of that effort was the launch in 2003 of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, a $27 million grantmaking initiative to strengthen civil society and democracy, in partnership with the U.S., Dutch, Swedish and Greek governments, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Expanding GMF’s capacities as a public policy institution has been another of Kennedy’s major achievements. Toward this end, he has provided GMF with a strong infrastructure throughout Europe, opening new offices in Paris, Bratislava, Brussels, Belgrade and Ankara to complement the work being done in Washington and Berlin.
Another key program, the Transatlantic Fellows program, was begun under Mr. Kennedy’s direction and provides journalists, policy analysts and academics an opportunity to pursue their interests in one of GMF’s offices.
Mr. Kennedy began his career in 1980 as a program officer at the Joyce Foundation, where he later became vice president for programs and then president. Mr. Kennedy left the Joyce Foundation in 1992 to work for Richard J. Dennis, a Chicago investor and philanthropist.
Mr. Kennedy serves on the boards of the nonprofit Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the European Foundation Center, and as an independent trustee of Van Kampen mutual funds.
PHILANTHROPY: The name of your organization, German Marshall Fund of the United States, suggests its origins, but might you detail for our readers the fund’s history and its mission?
MR. KENNEDY: The German Marshall Fund was created in 1972 as a memorial to the Marshall Plan. The West German government at that time wanted to do something to say thank you to the United States for this extraordinarily generous foreign aid plan that had literally changed the face of Europe and especially of Germany.
They did a very smart job in setting up this institution. They wanted to make sure that it would have a sufficient endowment, so they made a long-term commitment of a large amount of capital. They wanted to make sure that it was never viewed as part of the West German government, so they emphasized that it should be an independent American institution. And from the very beginning, they emphasized that it should focus on U.S.-Europe, not just U.S.-German, issues. All of the basic ideas that were implemented at the beginning turned out to be very, very wise and have served us well.
Our overall mission is a simple one: to promote transatlantic cooperation. Originally, much of that mission was largely focused on the exchange of ideas around domestic policy issues, ranging from community development to immigration. Gradually, over the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve expanded it to focus much more on foreign policy and especially on how the United States and Europe can cooperate on the major global challenges facing the world today.
PHILANTHROPY: You now have offices, I think, in six European countries as well as in Washington. What is the geographical scope of the organization’s programs and its interests?
MR. KENNEDY: Yes, we have six offices but we will be adding a seventh one, in Bucharest, in the near future. This new facility will be used to manage something called the Black Sea Trust, which is a joint venture between the United States government, a number of private donors, including the Mott Foundation, as well as others.
Our geographic scope is very broad. The core of everything we do has a transatlantic component. There is always something there involving an exchange of ideas or people between the United States and Europe. The topic, however, could be very broad. For example, we’re doing a new project focused on China, in partnership with a number of funders in Europe, where the real focus is on how the United States and Europe can work together more coherently on issues stemming from the rise of China. We do a number of projects focused on development aid in Africa and elsewhere, but the focus is on how the United States and Europe can cooperate in a better way than they have in the past to make that aid more effective.
So, we have a very broad, global scope, but at the core of it is always a U.S.-European dialogue or exchange of ideas.
PHILANTHROPY: Might you elaborate on the different purposes your offices serve? For example, would you compare the role of your office in Berlin with your office in Brussels?
MR. KENNEDY: Berlin is one of our major offices partially because of our ongoing ties to Germany, and also because it’s a very important country within the European Union. Both Berlin and Paris, another place that we have offices, are really central to much of the policymaking that gets done in the European Union.
Our office in Brussels is really focused largely on the European Commission or the European Union headquarters and NATO, and it probably has more of a think-tank quality to it than some of our other offices. It’s led by a very experienced American foreign policy expert, Ron Asmus, and does much more substantive policy work than some of our other offices.
PHILANTHROPY: In the broadest terms, can you define the issues in play between the United States and Europe?
MR. KENNEDY: At the highest level, the issue is how the United States and Europe find common ground in addressing major global and regional challenges. On both sides of the Atlantic, there is a recognition that most of these topics, whether it is poverty in Africa or the spread of AIDS or instability in the Middle East, cannot be addressed by one party on its own—that they have to come together. That’s the trick, because the United States and Europe are growing apart in their values and their attitudes in many ways. Finding common ground and a common way forward on these major issues is a significant challenge.
Certainly, the Middle East and the threat of Islamic fundamentalism are major issues, the rise of China, and so forth. But the real challenge is how the United States and Europe find a common base of understanding so they can work together in addressing these topics.
PHILANTHROPY: How does the relationship differ between the United States and Western Europe versus the United States and Eastern Europe?
MR. KENNEDY: It would be nice to make it simple and say that there is a sharp difference between Western and Eastern Europe, and in fact there’s some evidence that there is. The only places in Europe where there is strong public support for President Bush and current U.S. policies are Poland and Romania.
But the real answer is more complicated than that. The relationships differ a lot, and it has to do with two or three factors.
One is history. So, for example, lots of bad things can happen in the relationship between the United States and Britain, but there’s such a long history of cooperation that it’s hard to break it.
Second is leadership. You have Angela Merkel in Germany, who is willing to talk about the need to work with the United States, which has a very powerful effect. Interestingly enough, the other country that I would really cite for exhibiting strong transatlantic leadership right now is Italy, even though the Italian government, when it was elected, was viewed as maybe having a slight anti-American tilt.
The final factor is public opinion, and in some countries, public opinion is always slightly anti-American. In France, there’s always more questioning of American policies and American leadership than in many other places. Spain is another case where that’s true. On the other hand, the Italian public will often express a good deal of criticism of American policies, but there is a deep reservoir of pro-Americanism there, as there is in places like Poland and Romania.
So, it really comes down to those three factors, and it can be very, very unpredictable.
PHILANTHROPY: For the past several years, you’ve published a survey called Transatlantic Trends, conducted in the U.S. and throughout Europe. That survey shows persistent declines in support for U.S. leadership in foreign policy in general, and for President Bush in particular. What are the underlying reasons for those attitudes?
MR. KENNEDY: It comes down to Iraq and not much else. If you look at our survey results, say, in 2003, you find very high pro-American sentiment and strong support for President Bush in Italy. But that has largely dissipated over the last three or four years. In Germany, because the German government, at the time, was so vocal in its opposition to the Iraq invasion, public opinion was dampened earlier. It hasn’t recovered even with a new, more pro-American leader, and that’s because there are deep, deep concerns about the competency and wisdom of American leadership at present.
I just spent two weeks traveling through Europe and met with a number of political leaders there, and what’s really striking is that even the ones who are most pro-American are asking serious questions about whether the U.S. system can produce good policy, can produce thoughtful policy. That is largely driven by the experience of Iraq. Even in some of the countries that have traditionally been very supportive of American presidents and American policy, like the Netherlands, there has been this drop.
Here is one thing that’s very interesting: In most countries, the gap between support for President Bush and support for American leadership is about 20 percentage points. I mean Europeans have very little faith in our president right now. They have somewhat more faith in American leadership. The real question is, will that rebound when there’s a new administration, whether it’s Republican or Democrat?
PHILANTHROPY: Do you see this as more a result of policy, perceived competency, or is it also a result of a difference in tone?
MR. KENNEDY: There are several factors that shape the European view of any administration. Europeans tend to favor Democrats over Republicans. They tend to favor moderate Republicans over conservative Republicans. They tend to favor secular conservative Republicans over religious conservative Republicans. So, President Bush starts out in a very tough position right away: religious, conservative, Republican. In a highly secular society such as Europe is today, where even the conservative parties would fit comfortably in the center of the Democratic Party here, he is very difficult for Europeans to accept. However, I think the Iraq factor is not a minor one and that, if we had been successful in Iraq, there would be huge support for the United States right now. Most Europeans didn’t see Saddam Hussein as a good person. Most of them actually wanted to see a change in his government. Most of them were very aware of the human rights abuses. They were convinced that it was going to be very hard to do, and we’ve proved them right. And so, I think that if we were now looking at a peaceful, non-violent Iraq, they might not like George Bush as much as they came to like Bill Clinton, but there wouldn’t be nearly the kind of negative reaction that there is now.
PHILANTHROPY: With the widely shared low opinion of U.S. foreign policy and the current administration, how much more difficult does that make transatlantic cooperation? Obviously, there’s disagreement over Iraq, but does that disagreement make all other issues more difficult to deal with?
MR. KENNEDY: I’m glad you asked that because there’s an irony here: There’s this deep-seated public opposition to the United States’ policies right now, but when you actually look at a government-to-government situation, I find more deep cooperation now on more issues than there has been in years—Afghanistan, which was a major joint effort of the United States and Europe; Lebanon, where the United States really allowed Europe to lead, but has been extremely supportive and helpful; and the efforts to try to get the regime in Iran to forgo nuclear weapons. These are all three cases where the United States and Europe are working very closely together, and you could also include deep cooperation now on intelligence and homeland security and a variety of other issues.
If you talk to public officials in Europe, you actually find very substantial support for American leadership. In a study by the Compagnia de San Paolo, a major Italian foundation, something like 75 percent of European political elites view American leadership as essential in the world because they see it every day. They work closely with the United States, and they realize how important it is. The real trick is that very few public officials, and especially elected officials, are willing to go to their publics and talk about why it’s so important to work with the United States. It’s just politically too sensitive.
You have some exceptions. Angela Merkel has been very bold in talking about the need to work with the United States. The president of the European Commission, President Barroso, has been very outspoken. Two weeks ago, Romano Prodi in Italy actually risked the collapse of his coalition to support the expansion of an American military base in his country on the grounds that the United States is Italy’s and Europe’s most important ally. You have a few cases like that, but most European leaders are quite timid in going to their publics and talking about why cooperation with the United States is as deep as it is and so essential.
PHILANTHROPY: In America Alone, Mark Steyn hypothesizes that Europe may eventually become an Islamic continent. How great a threat to transatlantic relations is the growing size and political influence of Islamic populations in Europe?
MR. KENNEDY: I think the key distinction to make is between the growing size of those populations and their political influence. Right now, their political influence in many places is limited, although in some places more than in others. Let me take three examples.
In Great Britain, the influence has become quite substantial. I think the reason is public dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Blair’s leadership on Iraq—the feeling that Britain has become more of a target for Islamic extremists because of the British role in Iraq. A general multiculturalism that has taken root has perhaps given Islamic communities a much stronger voice there than in almost any other European country. This is also reflected in other ways. Britain is the one country in Europe where support for Israel has actually gone down over the last three or four years. It’s been going up in almost every other country with the rise of the new regime in Iran, the election of Hamas in the Palestine Authority, and the Lebanese war this summer.
On the other hand, in places like Italy or Germany, it’s not that big a factor. Yes, there is immigration, but the immigration is coming from lots of different places. Many of these predictions of a more Islamic Europe go on the assumption that most new immigration into Europe is going to come from North Africa or the Middle East. The fact is, in a place like Italy, it’s coming from Romania, Moldova, the Ukraine and Russia. You go to Portugal, and you’re going to see more Brazilians and Ukrainians and Romanians than you will people from Morocco. The same is true in Spain. It very consciously introduced immigration policies that have favored Latin America over North Africa.
In those places, the numbers of Muslim citizens are going to remain fairly small. In other places, like the Netherlands, you’re seeing a real backlash to what, for a while, had been a real openness to giving Islam an equal place at the table. And what you see is a much greater emphasis now on how to integrate immigrant communities into Dutch values—or, in Sweden, Swedish values—than you ever have before.
So, I’m not pessimistic. I’m much more concerned about the demographic changes in Europe because, as Europe becomes older, unless there are some significant changes in their welfare policies, they’re not going to be able to afford to be a world power, either in terms of development aid or military power or in any other sense. That, to me, is a much bigger threat than the rise of the Islamic communities there.
PHILANTHROPY: You conduct a separate survey on trade and globalization issues. Is there not relatively broad, positive agreement on trade and globalization among the U.S. and European publics?
MR. KENNEDY: There is and there isn’t. There is probably more support for globalization and international trade now than there has been in a number of years.
There are still sharp differences, and I think one of the most interesting is, in our survey at least, that Great Britain and Germany have very similar, very strong attitudes in favor of globalization and free trade, whereas the United States and France tend to be more protectionist, have more of a sense that they could be losers from globalization and trade, that their economies are more vulnerable.
The leadership in Great Britain and Germany emphasizes the importance of trade and exports based on a long tradition in their political cultures. That’s quite different than in France and the United States, both of which, at various times, had larger internal economies than other countries.
I’m generally optimistic and I find the parallel between U.S. and French attitudes quite interesting.
PHILANTHROPY: What today are the principal trade issues that need to be resolved?
MR. KENNEDY: Well, there’s one big set of issues, and that comes around the level to which the United States and Europe are going to subsidize and protect their farmers. That is the key to getting the Doha trade round restarted. That will be the key to ending a number of transatlantic tensions over trade.
There are going to be some other issues. Some of those relate to the sale and access of service providers in the United States and Europe. Mutual funds are a good example—how American companies can have access to European markets and vice versa. It’s relatively simple to get access on the U.S. side. It’s much harder for American companies to access Europe.
But the real key is the support of agricultural subsidies, and I think, at the end of the day, both the United States and Europe are going to be forced to reduce their protection of their agricultural communities.
PHILANTHROPY: GMF functions as a research institute and operator of programs to promote transatlantic cooperation, but it is also a grantmaking institution. Would you describe your view of the past and present intersection between philanthropy and foreign policy?
MR. KENNEDY: I think it’s gone through several cycles in the United States. When you look back in the 1950s and 1960s, the major foundations all had a very close working relationship with the State Department, intelligence agencies and government in general on the pursuit of foreign policy, whether it was the Ford Foundation or Carnegie or others. They often supported the kind of research that government officials felt was needed, the kinds of programs that might be most helpful. I’m not saying that it was a one-way street—I think there was a back and forth—but there was a very close working relationship and a high degree of communication.
That really fell apart during the Vietnam War, and until the rise of some of the most well-known conservative foundations, there was a sharp break between the foundation community and what foreign policy was focused on. The way one person described it when I first started this job is that most of the foundations were supporting work that no one at the National Security Council or in policy planning at the State Department would ever care about or read, either because they were big, long-term fuzzy issues that didn’t have much relationship to the day-to-day pressures in government or they were tangential issues that really weren’t central to the big foreign policy challenges.
I think there’s been a real change, despite concerns and opposition in much of the foundation community to the Bush administration over the last five or six years. I think you see more close conversations and coordination on a range of issues. A good example is that there are three or four mildly successful unofficial dialogues going on between the United States and Iran and some other of the most troubled countries. They are supported by foundations but with the knowledge of people in government.
I think that there is a new set of both funders and think tanks that focus on smaller but more policy-relevant projects, where there’s going to be an audience in the administration and at the State Department. I think there is a much savvier group of funders now working on foreign policy than there has been in a long time, and I hope it can be sustained because I think it’s all to the better.
PHILANTHROPY: There is a theory that a very significant aspect of U.S. success in the Cold War was due to a long view of that conflict being taken by private parties and some in government. How do you see the potential of philanthropy in what appears to be the great foreign policy issue of today—the Middle East?
MR. KENNEDY: In that area, you see some really positive developments. An increasing number of foundations are focused on supporting better research, supporting the training of researchers in those areas—more than I’ve seen in a long time on any other issue. It has happened very quickly and with some real sense of urgency. That’s a very positive development.
You will probably see more funding for conferences, seminars, et cetera, that are trying to pull together American and, for that matter, European and other knowledge on the Middle East and on our relationships there than there has ever been before.
My European friends would say that all of that emphasis, all of that interest, still didn’t prevent many serious mistakes being made in Iraq. But that, I think, is where the long-term kicks in. This is going to be a very complicated several decades, and I think the real product of these commitments by American foundations, from all points of the political spectrum, by the way, will be evident in maybe five or six years when you’ll see a larger number of people with strong linguistic and regional knowledge coming online in the policy community.
PHILANTHROPY: What is your view of the state of philanthropy generally in the United States today?
MR. KENNEDY: I think it’s an extraordinary community. In the 25 years that I’ve been part of philanthropy in the United States, the explosion—and the positive results of that explosion—in number of donors and in the size of donors is quite extraordinary. Twenty-five years ago, you honestly could imagine someone at a nonprofit with an interest being potentially excluded from funding because there was a fairly small number of funders that were really interested in a particular issue.
Where there used to be a shortage of money going to organizations, now I think there’s almost a shortage of good ideas to soak up the money in the philanthropic world. I do not mean to minimize the struggles that many organizations have in raising money. They are still there. But there is so much money available and there is such a diverse and varied group of donors out there that I think it would be very hard, if you have a good idea, not to be able to find some donors willing to pick up the challenge. That is a major, major change.
Also, when I started out in the business, you would find a certain kind of philanthropic mindset that could sometimes be quite narrow or quite rigid that applied to most of the establishment givers. That doesn’t happen anymore. There are just too many players with too many interests.
There is a substantial boom in family foundations that have their own spirit and focus that is not easily captured by conventional wisdom or constrained by conventional norms. There are even private foundations that have lost their links to the original donors but have recognized that they’ve got to become more strategic and more dynamic to really have an effect.
I think the whole focus on accountability in philanthropy, especially of the voluntary kind, has really been an important thing. There are newspapers now that write critical pieces about foundations. All of these things have made the philanthropic community much more effective and dynamic than it’s been in a long time.