Ambassador Alexander “Sandy” Vershbow is a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center on Strategy and Security in Washington DC, where he works on both transatlantic issues and relations with Russia. He is also the Wolk Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House in Philadelphia PA.
Ambassador Vershbow was the Deputy Secretary General of NATO from February 2012 to October 2016, the first American to hold that position. He was directly involved in shaping the Alliance’s political response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, in adapting NATO’s strengthened deterrence and defense posture, and in deepening NATO’s partnerships with non-Allies in Europe, the Middle East and Northeast Asia.
Prior to his post at NATO, Ambassador Vershbow served for three years as the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security affairs. In that position, he was responsible for coordinating US security and defense policies relating to the nations and international organizations of Europe (including NATO), the Middle East, and Africa.
From 1977 to 2008, Vershbow was a career member of the United States Foreign Service. He served as US Ambassador to NATO (1998-2001); to the Russian Federation (2001-05); and to the Republic of Korea (2005-08). He held numerous senior positions in Washington, including Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European affairs at the National Security Council (1994-97) and State Department Director for Soviet Union affairs (1988-91). During his career, he was centrally involved in strengthening US defense relations with allies in Europe and Asia and in transforming NATO and other European security organizations to meet post-Cold War challenges. He also was involved in efforts to support democracy and human rights in the former Soviet Union.
Alexander Vershbow is a long-time student of Russian Affairs and international relations. He received a B.A. in Russian and East European Studies from Yale University (1974) and a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Certificate of the Russian Institute from Columbia University (1976).
During his U.S. government career, Ambassador Vershbow received numerous awards including the Department of Defense’s Distinguished Civilian Service Medal (2012) the State Department’s Cordell Hull Award for Economic Achievement for his contributions to negotiations on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (2007); the American Bar Association’s Ambassador’s Award for his advocacy of the democracy, human rights and rule of law in Russia (2004); the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award for his work as Ambassador to NATO (2001); the Department of Defense’s Joseph J. Kruzel Award for his contributions to peace in the former Yugoslavia (1997); and the Anatoly Sharansky Freedom Award of the Union of Councils of Soviet Jews for his work in advancing the cause of Jewish emigration from the USSR (1990).
At NATO, Ambassador Vershbow was awarded the NATO Distinguished Service Medal, and he received state honors from the Presidents of Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Georgia and Finland and from the King of Belgium.