Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs: Who Is A. Wess Mitchell?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
A. Wess Mitchell (photo: Facebook/Center for European Policy Analysis)

Tardy in staffing his administration generally, President Donald Trump has virtually ignored the State Department, appointing only three of 22 assistant secretaries there so far.  A. Wess Mitchell has been advanced for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. A young man with a strong reputation despite a lack of government or academic experience, if confirmed by the Senate Mitchell would succeed Victoria Nuland, who held the job from 2013 to the close of the Obama administration in late January 2017.


Born in 1977 in Texas, Aaron Wess Mitchell was one of three children, including Wade and Audra, raised by Larry and Dessa (Dodd) Mitchell. His father was a Baptist minister. Wess earned a B.A. in History and Political Science at Texas Tech University in 2001, a Master’s Degree in German and European Studies from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in 2004, and recently completed a PhD at the Freie Universität Berlin.


Mitchell was an intern and research associate at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based anti-government regulation think tank.


Mitchell has spent his career since 2004 at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a foreign policy analysis firm with offices in Washington, DC, and Warsaw, Poland, of which he is president and CEO, after moving up from director of research. CEPA is funded to a great extent by conservative businessman Laurence E. Hirsch, who has a long record of financially supporting Republican candidates for office. Conservative foundations (Smith Richardson Foundation, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and weapons manufacturers (Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Chevron Corporation, Bell Helicopter, Textron Systems, BAE Systems) are also major funders. CEPA takes a generally hawkish view toward Russia and a positive perspective on the Atlantic alliance.


In June 2015, Mitchell and CEPA secured a contract with the Pentagon to produce a study that supported moving NATO troops and “prepositioned equipment” closer to Russia to protect Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Mitchell believes that the governments of Russia, China and Iran want to challenge U.S. power by nibbling away at smaller countries “from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea in Europe, through the Levant and Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean and up through the littoral Asia to the Sea of Japan” and that the U.S. needs to challenge this strategy by strengthening its international alliances.


During the 2012 election, Mitchell worked on the National Security Transition Team for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. From 2013 to 2016, he chaired the Europe Working Group for the John Hay Initiative, a neoconservative group that offered foreign policy advice to Republican politicians.


Mitchell is the co-author of two books: Unquiet Frontier: Vulnerable Allies, Rising Rivals and the Crisis of American Power (with Jakub J. Grygiel, 2016), which caught the eye of now-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster; and The Godfather Doctrine: A Foreign Policy Parable (with John C. Hulsman, 2009). He has also published numerous scholarly articles and policy reports.  


Mitchell serves on the advisory councils of the Richard G. Lugar Institute for Diplomacy and Congress, the Slovak Atlantic Commission, the Prague Center for Transatlantic Relations, the Atlantic Initiative in Berlin, and the Alexander Hamilton Society.


Mitchell might prove to be at odds with his boss, Donald Trump. In November 2008, he wrote, “The concept of a balance of power is the taproot of American political thought. Congress, courts and the president contain and curtail one another in an elaborate dance that sifts power, protecting the republic.”


In 2006, Mitchell married Elizabeth Kay (Leon) Mitchell. They have two children, Wesley and Charlotte.

-Matt Bewig, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Official Biography (CEPA)

Trump’s Opportunity: Make NATO Great Again (by A. Wess Mitchell, CEPA)

The Case for Deterrence by Denial (by A. Wess Mitchell, American Interest)

Pentagon Agency Hires Group Pushing More Aggressive Russia Policy (by Ray Locker, USA Today)

How to Counter Putin’s Expansionist Designs on Eastern Europe (by A. Wess Mitchell, RealClearWorld)

CEPA 2014 Tax Return (pdf) 



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