Karen Donfried

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Person.png Karen Donfried   TwitterRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(intelligence operative)
Karen Donfried.jpg
Alma materWesleyan University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, University of Munich
Member ofCouncil on Foreign Relations/Members, German Marshall Fund

Employment.png German Marshall Fund/President

In office
2014 - Present
Preceded byCraig Kennedy

Dr. Karen Donfried is president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). Despite its name, it is a US organization, with strong ties to the intelligence services, dedicated to keeping German and European political life properly obedient to US interests ('transatlantic'), through methods like monitoring political life, fellowships for next-generation leaders, and support for compatible NGOs; plus whatever happens behind the scenes.


Before assuming her current role in GMF in April 2014, Donfried was the special assistant to the president of the United States and senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council at the White House. In that capacity, she was the president’s principal advisor on Europe and led the interagency process on the development and implementation of the president’s European policies.

Prior to the White House, Donfried served as the national intelligence officer (NIO) for Europe on the National Intelligence Council, the US intelligence services’ center for strategic thinking. As NIO, she directed and drafted strategic analysis to advance senior policymakers’ understanding of Europe.

Donfried first joined GMF in 2001 after having served for ten years as a European specialist at the Congressional Research Service. From 2003 to 2005, she was responsible for the Europe portfolio on the U.S. Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff. She returned to GMF from 2005 to 2010, first as senior director of policy programs and then as executive vice president.

Donfried is a member of the Board of Trustees of Wesleyan University, her undergraduate alma mater. She serves as a senior fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Council on Germany. From 2014 to 2016, Donfried served as vice chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the United States; in 2017, she became a member of WEF’s Europe Policy Group. Donfried is a member of the Team of External Advisors to the President of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. She was a member of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board from 2015 to 2017. [1]


She received the Cross of the Order of Merit from the German Government in 2011, became an officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2018 and an officer of the Order of the Crown of Belgium in 2010, and received a Superior Honor Award from the U.S. Department of State in 2005 "for her contribution to revitalizing the transatlantic partnership" (Angela Merkel became chancellor the same year).

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