Dealing with Dictators


The Center for the National Interest hosted a discussion entitled “Dealing with Dictators” on Monday, June 19. Former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula J. Dobriansky moderated.

Americans have debated U.S. relations with authoritarian leaders and their governments for decades. Since entering office, President Donald Trump has met authoritarian leaders from China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and other nations. He met Russia’s foreign minister in the White House and has publicly expressed his willingness to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. When, why and how should the United States work with these governments? What should U.S. officials expect from these relationships? Can the United States pursue cooperation with authoritarian states without compromising its values?

We asked two former senior officials to share their perspectives on these complex questions.

– Paul J. Saunders, executive director of the Center for the National Interest, director of its U.S.-Russia relations program, and a former State Department senior advisor in the George W. Bush administration; and
– Mark Lagon, Chief Policy Officer, Friends of the Fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a former President of Freedom House, and a former Ambassador-at-Large leading the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking-in-Persons.