2015: Diplomacy and Elected Autocrats

Diplomacy and Elected Autocrats

A Discussion of American Diplomacy

at the Robert H. Smith Center at Montalto

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Participants of the "Diplomacy and Elected Autocrats" discussion at Monticello.
Speakers and Academy staff at the “Diplomacy and Elected Autocrats” event at Monticello.


American Academy of Diplomacy

Washington, D.C.

Robert H. Smith International Center

For Jefferson Studies at Monticello

Charlottesville, Virginia

US foreign policy has a recurring problem when national leaders are elected but are increasingly autocratic in their actions while maintaining strong support from their electorate.  Does the United States accept dictatorial actions and human rights violations because leaders are democratically elected?  When do we decide they’re not democrats?   Do autocratic behavior and human rights violations trump our other interests?  Even if they do, how do we meld our dealings and interests into effective policies?  The panel will examine the related issues from several angles.

Lorne Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the George W. Bush administration, a Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council in the George H.W. Bush administration, and a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs under Secretary James Baker, will deliver a keynote address.
Sponsored by the American Academy of Diplomacy and Monticello’s Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies.


Program of the 2015 Ross Discussion at Monticello
An event program accompanying each audience member’s seat.


Diplomacy and Elected Autocrats



US foreign policy has a recurring problem when national leaders are elected but are increasingly autocratic in their actions while maintaining strong support from their electorate. Does the US accept dictatorial actions and human rights violations because leaders are democratically elected? When do we decide they’re not democrats? Do autocratic behavior and human rights violations trump our other interests? Even if they do, how do we meld our dealings and interests into effective policies? We will examine the related issues from several angles.




 Diplomacy and Elected Autocrats:  A Discussion of American Diplomacy

October 24, 2015


9:30 a.m.              Registration at Monticello prior to bus boarding for Montalto


9:45 a.m.              Coffee at Repose House, Montalto


10:15 a.m.            Welcome and Introductions

Leslie Greene Bowman, President, Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann (ret.), President, American Academy of Diplomacy

Andrew O’Shaughnessy, Vice President and Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies


10:30 a.m.            Ambassador Neumann will introduce the challenge.

Respect for democratically elected leaders is a significant principle of American foreign policy. But sometimes elections give way to autocratic behavior or extremely hostile policies. By looking at several case studies we will be able to think more clearly about how to deal with the tension between our different political goals.

10:45 a.m.            Panel Discussion

The panel will look at the broad issues of policy and diplomacy in the context of four examples:


Venezuela:  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was elected by large majorities but took radical policy positions and appeared to increasingly be using non-democratic tactics against his domestic opponents.  What elements did or should have governed the US policy response?

 Ambassador Peter Romero

Egypt:  America pledged support for democracy when Egypt’s first government was elected after the overthrow of President Mubarak.  The conduct of the government of Mohammed Morsi raised questions about its approach to democracy and his overthrow by now-President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi raises additional issues about tension between America’s interests and how we explain our positions.

 Ambassador Nicholas Veliotes


Russia:  Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoys broad popular support while ruling undemocratically. He pursues some policies hostile to American interests and in other cases cooperates. As America calibrates his relations with Russia how should it take into account Putin’s popular support within Russia?

 Ambassador Richard Miles


Serbia:  In the case of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic democratic support and war crimes intersected. Does America have any responsibility to support democracy in such a case? When one group’s support threatens the lives of others, how is democracy to be weighed in the balance and what does it mean for US policy in the future?

 Ambassador Robert Beecroft


11:45 a.m.            Q & A

12:15 p.m.            Break for Lunch


Invitees enjoy the wonderful setting during lunch break at Monticello
Attendees enjoying the wonderful views off Montalto during lunch.


1:15 p.m.              Keynote Address:

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights Lorne Craner reflected on the broad and complex challenges raised by these cases and the issues they manifest.

2:00 p.m.              Q & A

2:30 p.m.              Closing Remarks

Ambassador Ronald Neumann and Andrew O’Shaughnessy

2:45 p.m.              Conference adjourns




Lorne Craner

Lorne Craner is a Founder of Redstone Global, a new risk firm focused on the political potential of current non-elites in emerging markets.  He is also Co-Director of the Transatlantic Renewal Project, which is dedicated to reviving relations between the US and Central Europe.

Lorne Craner at 2015 Monticello
Keynote speaker Lorne Craner in front of a Thomas Jefferson portrait at Monticello.

Craner was twice President of the International Republican Institute, a widely praised democracy assistance organization.   For his accomplishments as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the George W. Bush administration, Secretary Colin Powell presented Craner with the Department’s Distinguished Service Award.  Earlier, in the George H.W. Bush administration, Craner was a Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council under General Brent Scowcroft, and a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs u
nder Secretary James Baker.  He began his career assisting Congressman Jim Kolbe and Senator John McCain on national security issues.

Craner recently completed a second term on the Board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  A graduate of Georgetown University (MA) and Reed College (BA), Craner is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Diplomacy.



Leslie Greene Bowman

 Leslie Greene Bowman is President/CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., which owns and operates Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.  She served as Executive Director of the Winterthur Museum prior to her tenure at Monticello, and spent the first half of her career at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as curator and assistant director of exhibition programs.  While in Los Angeles, she also enjoyed academic appointments with both USC and UCLA.

Leslie Bowman at Monticello

Bowman is the author of American Arts & Crafts: Virtue in Design, and co-author of American Rococo, 1750-1775: Elegance in Ornament, each amplifying scholarship on important eras in American art history.  She has served at the highest levels of the museum field, both as an accreditation commissioner for the American Alliance of Museums and a board member of the Association of Art Museum Directors.  She serves on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House by Presidential appointment, as she did in the Clinton and Bush administrations.  She is currently a Trustee on the Board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann (ret.) 

Ambassador Neumann welcomes participants to the event.

Formerly a Deputy Assistant Secretary Ronald E. Neumann served three times as Ambassador; to Algeria, Bahrain and finally to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from July 2005 to April 2007. Before Afghanistan, Mr. Neumann, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, served in Baghdad from February 2004 with the Coalition Provisional Authority and then as Embassy Baghdad’s principal interlocutor with the Multinational Command, where he was deeply involved in coordinating the political part of military action.

Prior to working in Iraq, he was Chief of Mission in Manama, Bahrain (2001-2004). Before that, Ambassador Neumann served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near East Affairs (1997-2000), where he directed the organization of the first separately-funded NEA democracy programs and also was responsible for the bureau’s work in developing the North African Economic Initiative for Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Before that assignment, he was Ambassador to Algeria (1994 to 1997) and Director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs (Iran and Iraq; 1991 to 1994). Earlier in his career, he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and in Sanaa in Yemen, Principal Officer in Tabriz, Iran and Economic/Commercial Officer in Dakar, Senegal. His previous Washington assignments include service as Jordan Desk officer, Staff Assistant in the Middle East (NEA) Bureau, and Political Officer in the Office of Southern European Affairs. Ambassador Neumann is the author of The

Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan(Potomac Press, 2009), a book on his time in Afghanistan.  He is the author of a number of monographs and articles.  At the Academy he has focused particularly on efforts to expand State and USAID personnel to enable these institutions to carry out their responsibilities.
Ambassador Neumann speaks some Arabic and Dari as well as French. He received State Department Senior Foreign Service pay awards in 2004, 2003, and 1999 as well as individual Superior Honor Awards in 1993 and 1990. He served as an Army infantry officer in Viet Nam and holds a Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantry Badge. In Baghdad, he was awarded the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. He earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in political science from the University of California at Riverside. He is married to the former M. Elaine Grimm. They have two children.


Andrew O’Shaughnessy

Andrew O’Shaughnessy is the Vice President of Monticello, the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Professor of History at the University of Virginia.  He is the author of An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). His most recent book The Me

Andrew O’Shaughnessy shares his thoughts during the conference break.
Andrew O’Shaughnessy talks with a participant during a break.

n Who Lost America. British Leadership, the American Revolution and the Fate of the Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013) received eight national awards including the New York Historical Society American History Book Prize and the George Washington Book Prize. He is a co-editor of Old World, New World. America and Europe in the Age of Jefferson (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010) and a co-editor of the Jeffersonian America series published by the University of Virginia Press.  A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is editor of the Journal of American History.


Ambassador Peter F. Romero

Ambassador Peter F. Romero is the President and CEO of Experior Advisory LLC, a Washington-based firm which advises US and international clients on winning strategies and best practices overseas.  He is a seasoned professional with a 34-year track record of success in some of the world’s most inhospitable “hot spots”, as a career US diplomat, entrepreneur, teacher and lecturer.

Ambassador Romero shares his insights on Venezuela.

Ambassador Romero advises governments and private companies on security challenges, combining cutting-edge technologies and community-centric holistic approaches in dealing with Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs). For example, he currently advises the Government of Panama on internal and external threats to its national security, as well as SST, a US multinational specializing in gunshot location systems.  He also teaches and lectures on national security issues at the Graduate School of Foreign Service (MSFS) at Georgetown University and at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft.Leavenworth. Through real life case studies he teaches the art of creating community stakeholders against armed extremists, gangs, insurgents, narcotraffickers and criminal cartels (violent non-state actors). Recently, Ambassador Romero was invited to serve on the Board of Visitors for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) at Fort Benning.

As a practitioner, Ambassador Romero began developing his expertise in creating stakeholders during the critical and volatile period leading up to the end of the civil war in El Salvador (1991-1993), Romero, leading the 1,200 US mission there, pioneered and directed whole-of-government programs to demobilize army and guerrilla combatants and the commensurate community-based development strategies still employed in Iraq and Afghanistan (COIN) today. He directed one of the largest aid budgets at the time, molding a successful strategy that included inter alia: incentives to demobilize (DDR) for ex-combatants; village banking; grass-roots democracy building; assisting in the creation of rural and urban service cooperatives and land titling for urban squatters.  His signature effort resulted in the transformation of the guerrilla insurgency (FMLN) into a political party. The FMLN currently holds the Presidency in El Salvador and is a pro-US ally. In the history of UN peacekeeping, El Salvador ranks as one of the most successful, in no small part due to his efforts.

As US Ambassador to Ecuador (1993-1996), he directed programs to economically integrate communities along the border between Peru and Ecuador, ending a long-simmering border dispute that had escalated into war.  These strategies, a mix of health, education and entrepreneurial elements, enabled the largely indigenous border population to transition from a war footing to accelerated community development, providing the inhabitants on both sides of the border with a stake in the peace.  At the same time, he negotiated the temporary deployment of peacekeepers (to include US military forces) into the disputed region and successfully pressed both governments for a definitive resolution.

From 1996 to 2001 Ambassador Romero was Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department.  While there he strengthened democratic institutions and human rights observance, sustainable economic growth in the hemisphere and combating corruption and drug trafficking.  He was the conceptual architect and negotiator of the “Forward Operations Location” (FOL) concept in Latin America, the linchpin of our national security strategy overseas, enabling the US military to deploy closer to global “hot spots”. His negotiating efforts resulted in FOLs in El Salvador, Curacao and Ecuador.  Ambassador Romero was the first to conceive and promote Plan Colombia, now a 8.2 billion dollar US program, to extend Colombian Government control over its national territory; this by driving out guerrilla groups, paramilitaries and narco traffickers which had taken over large swatches of eastern and southern Colombia by creating community stakeholders loyal to the government. This mix of hard and soft power (training and equipping security forces, alternative crops, infrastructure development, health and educational programs and vocational training) still remains the foundation of the highly-successful Plan Colombia.

Upon retiring from the Foreign Service in 2002, Ambassador Romero has raised private equity for infrastructure, mining retail chains, sports teams and energy projects worldwide. His efforts also yielded public concessions to multinationals in airport and highway construction. While consulting for Newmont mining in Denver, he developed a winning strategy with the local indigenous community around the mining operations that ended years of work stoppages and solidified the company’s relationship with the Peruvian government.

Over the last decade he has served on both for profit and not-for-profit boards and advised several organizations on overseas strategies. These include inter alia: an internet content-protection company (Gigatrust), investment banks, Corporacion America (infrastructure), Aeropuertos 2000 Argentina (airports), the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (Breast Cancer), Special Olympics International and Shotspotter, a security technology company in Silicon Valley. He helped in securing a $100 million award for the construction and management of the airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador and worked with the mayor to ensure community buy-in for several infrastructure projects. He is on the Board of the National Education Association (NEA) Endowment. He was awarded the Order of Boyaca, Colombia’s highest civilian commendation and the “Most Distinguished Graduate” award from his alma mater, Florida State University in 2006.  He is also the recipient of the “Roberto Clemente Award” for public service from Boricua College in New York, as well as the Department of State’s highest commendation–its “Distinguished Honor Award”, the “Baker-Wilkins Award” for superlative leadership of an overseas mission, the “Walter Stoessel Award”, in recognition of his highly distinguished career, the Department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Award and several Superior and Meritorious citations from the State Department.  Ambassador Romero shares the distinction of being the highest ranking career Hispanic officer in the history of the US Department of State.

He comments regularly on Telemundo, Univision, CNN en Espanol, Voice of America and NTN-24 and is currently a member of the prestigious American Academy of Diplomacy and DACOR (Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired).

Born in New York City, Peter Romero received both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Florida State University.  He is married to Ruth Espey-Romero, a corporate attorney, and is fluent in both Spanish and Italian.


Ambassador Nicholas Veliotes

Ambassador Veliotes addresses Egypt and its case of elected autocracy.

Ambassador Nicholas Veliotes received a BA and MA from the University of California (Berkeley). He served in the Army for two years, and during his Foreign Service career, was posted in Italy, India, Laos, and Israel.  He was Ambassador to Egypt and Jordan and Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East and South Asia. After retirement, Ambassador Veliotes was the President of the Association of American Publishers. He serves on the Boards of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, AMIDEAST and the American Academy of Diplomacy and is a member of the VFW and the Berkeley Fellows.    Ambassador Veliotes  received  the B’nai Brith “Shield of our Fathers” award for contributions to peace in the Middle East, was awarded the  French government decoration of “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” for his work in the field of international literature and publishing, the Cal Philadelphia Society Award  and the Glenn T. Seaborg Award for distinguished life achievement” of a former University of California football player.


Robert Beecroft

Robert Mason Beecroft retired from the Department of State in 2006 with the rank of Career Minister-Counselor after a 35-year career as a Foreign Service Officer.  He now serves on a part-time basis as a supervisory senior inspector, leading inspections of U.S. diplomatic operations in Kuwait, Syria, Taiwan, Vietnam, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus and the Department of State.  He has conducted recent studies, for the American Academy of Diplomacy and the U.S. Institute of Peace, of the professional education and training of American diplomats and the use of special envoys in conflict diplomacy.  From 2006 to 2009, he was Vice President for Diplomacy and Development at MPRI, Inc., a division of the L-3 Corporation.  From 2004 to 2006, he was a professor of national security strategy at the U.S. National War College.

From 2001 to 2004, following his ambassadorial confirmation by the Senate, Amb. Beecroft led the Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with a staff of 800 people from thirty countries.  He was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997, following an earlier assignment to Bosnia as Special Envoy for the Bosnian Federation and Chargé d’Affaires at U.S. Embassy Sarajevo.  As a junior and mid-grade Foreign Service Officer, he served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassies in Amman and Ouagadougou; counselor for political/economic affairs at the U.S. Mission to NATO (Brussels); political officer at Embassies Cairo, Bonn and Paris; State Department advisor-expert on the SALT TWO strategic nuclear negotiations in Geneva; special assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to France; and deputy political advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO military headquarters (SHAPE) in Belgium.  In Washington, he has been Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs; Senior Coordinator for Bosnian Implementation; special assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State; officer-in-charge of Federal German Affairs; and a nuclear arms control specialist in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

Amb. Beecroft is the recipient of two personal Superior Honor Awards, four group Superior Honor Awards, and numerous Performance Awards and Meritorious Step Increases.  He is a 1988 graduate of the U.S. National War College, and was a member of the Fortieth Senior Seminar at the Foreign Service Institute (1997-98).

Ambassador Beecroft provides expertise on the Serbian example
Ambassador Beecroft provides expertise on Serbia.

Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1940, Amb. Beecroft completed secondary education at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut.  He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a B.A. and M.A. in French.  He studied in Paris at the Sorbonne, in Munich at the Goethe-Institut, and on the postgraduate level at the University of Strasbourg.  Before joining the Foreign Service, he taught American civilization and English language at the Lycée d’État Fustel de Coulanges in Strasbourg, and French and German at the University of Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s University and Germantown Academy in Philadelphia.  He served in the U.S. Army Reserve as a medical corpsman (1965-68) and civil affairs officer (1968-71).

Amb. Beecroft is fluent in French, German, Norwegian and Danish, and conversant in several other languages.  His hobbies include music (listening and performing), archaeology, snorkeling, tennis, hiking and U.S. Civil War history.  He is a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the American Academy of Diplomacy, the American Foreign Service Association, the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, the American Council on Germany, the Association of the United States Army, the Army Civil Affairs Association, the Army and Navy Club of Washington, and the Union League of Philadelphia.  He is a board member of the Alliance Française of Washington and the Senior Seminar Alumni Association.

Amb. Beecroft is married to the former Mette Louise Ording Ottesen, Ph.D., a senior consultant at the State Department.  They have two grown children, Christopher and Pamela.


Ambassador Richard Miles

Richard Miles was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Georgia on April 19, 2002.

Richard Miles was born in 1937 in Little Rock, Arkansas. He grew up in rural and small-town Indiana. After serving in the Marine Corps from 1954 to 1957, he obtained degrees from Bakersfield College, the University of California at Berkeley and Indiana University. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Russian Institute, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Ambassador Miles worked for the South Carolina Voter Education Project from 1964 to 1967 in the field of voter registration and political leadership training.

He entered the Foreign Service in 1967 and has served abroad in Oslo, Moscow, Belgrade, as Consul General in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and as Principal Officer of the U.S. Embassy Office in Berlin.

Ambassador Miles served as Ambassador to Azerbaijan from 1992 to 1993, as Chief of Mission to Belgrade from 1996 to 1999, and as Ambassador to Bulgaria from 1999 to 2001.

Ambasador Miles answers the questions on Russia
Ambasador Miles answers questions on Russia.

In the State Department, he also worked in the Offices for Soviet and East European and Yugoslav Affairs and in the Politico-Military Bureau.

Ambassador Miles worked for Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC) on an American Political Science Fellowship in 1983-1984, and in 1987-1988 he was a fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs.

Ambassador Miles has been awarded the State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award and Group Superior Honor Award (twice). In 1992 he was awarded a Presidential Meritorious Service Award and a national award for reporting.