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Center for the National Interest

Coordinates: 38°54′12″N 77°02′21″W / 38.9033°N 77.0393°W / 38.9033; -77.0393
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Center for the National Interest
Founder(s)Richard Nixon
FocusForeign policy
SubsidiariesThe National Interest
Formerly calledNixon Center for Peace and Freedom
Address1025 Connecticut Ave NW, S-1200
Washington, DC 20036
United States
Coordinates38°54′12″N 77°02′21″W / 38.9033°N 77.0393°W / 38.9033; -77.0393

The Center for the National Interest is a Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank. It was established by former U.S. President Richard Nixon on January 20, 1994, as the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom.[1]

The group changed its name to The Nixon Center in 1998. In 2001 the center acquired The National Interest, a bimonthly journal, in which it tends to promote the realist perspective on foreign policy.[2] Its CEO for nearly 30 years was Dimitri K. Simes, who retired at the end of 2022.[3]

The current president, Paul J. Saunders, was appointed in early 2024. Saunders is a former Senior U.S. State Department official.[4]

In March 2011, the center was renamed the Center for the National Interest (CFTNI or CNI).[5][6] The change was due to a conflict between Center leadership and the Richard Nixon Family Foundation and was part of "a long-running battle over former President Richard Nixon’s complicated legacy," with Foundation members criticizing the center's president for "attacking their party’s presidential candidate, John McCain, for his denunciations of Russia’s invasion of Georgia," and "discomfort at the Center over the Foundation’s obsession with re-litigating Watergate and its legacy."[7] Despite its separation from the Nixon Foundation, the center's leadership expressed its desire to "continue its forward-looking application of Nixon's foreign policy principles to today's international environment."[8]

According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), the center is number 43 (of 60) in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States".[9] According to the 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, the center is number 46 (of 107) in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States".[10] In 2006 it had an annual budget of $1.6 million.[11][needs update]

In 2016, the think tank hosted Donald Trump's first major foreign policy address, leading to one of its fellows being fired for criticizing the organization's decision in an op-ed article.[12][13][14] The Trump campaign's interactions with Simes and the Center became part of the 2017-2019 Special Counsel investigation.[15][16][17] The Mueller report ultimately found no evidence of wrongdoing by Simes or the center, but the investigation reportedly hurt the think tank financially.[16]



As of 2008, the center had a staff of approximately twenty people supporting seven main programs: Korean Studies, Energy Security and Climate Change, Strategic Studies, US-Russia Relations, U.S.-Japan Relations, China and the Pacific, and Regional Security (Middle East, Caspian Basin and South Asia).[18][19][needs update]

As of 2023, its Board of directors consists of Chairman Emeritus Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman Drew Guff, and Vice Chairman Richard Plepler. Members include Senator Pat Roberts, Graham Allison, Jeffrey Bewkes, former ambassador Richard Burt, Kris Elftmann, Jacob Heilbrunn, David Keene, former ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Grover Norquist, William Ruger, Paul J. Saunders, Dimitri K. Simes, J. Robinson West and David Zalaznick.[20]

As of 2023, its Advisory Council includes Chairman Dov Zakheim, Ahmed Charai, Peter Charow, Susan Eisenhower, Evan Greenberg, Bob Kerrey, John D. Negroponte, Lee Feinstein, and Thomas Pickering.

See also



  1. ^ The Nixon Center: Mission statement Archived October 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (2005-03-13). "Battle Splits Conservative Magazine". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  3. ^ Lippman, Daniel; Ward, Alexander; Berg, Matt. "Money problems hit right-leaning foreign policy magazine". Politico. Retrieved 2023-01-31.
  4. ^ "Center for the National Interest Appoints Paul Saunders as New President – Center for the National Interest". cftni.org. Retrieved 2024-05-21.
  5. ^ "Center for the National Interest". Archived from the original on 2011-08-15.
  6. ^ "Mueller report reveals Kushner's contacts with a 'pro-Kremlin' campaign adviser". Politico.
  7. ^ Smith, Ben (April 19, 2011). "Nixon's name". POLITICO. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  8. ^ "Nixon Center Becomes Center for the National Interest".
  9. ^ James G. McGann (Director) (February 4, 2015). "2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report". Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  10. ^ McGann, James (2020-06-18). "2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report". TTCSP Global Go to Think Tank Index Reports. doi:10.4324/9780429298318. ISBN 9780429298318. S2CID 188102746.
  11. ^ Abelson 2006, p. 238 (Appendix One, Table AI.2).
  12. ^ Haberman, Maggie (2016-04-21). "Group Founded by Richard Nixon to Host Foreign Policy Address by Donald Trump". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  13. ^ Hudson, John. "Exclusive: Think Tank Fires Employee Who Questioned Ties to Donald Trump". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  14. ^ Kirchick, James (2016-04-27). "Donald Trump's Russia connections". POLITICO. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  15. ^ Bertr, Natasha. "Mueller report reveals Kushner's contacts with a 'pro-Kremlin' campaign adviser". POLITICO. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  16. ^ a b "The Unexpected Costs of Cooperating With the Mueller Investigation". Bloomberg.com. 2019-04-25. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  17. ^ "Read the Mueller Report: Searchable Document and Index". The New York Times. 2019-04-18. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  18. ^ Abelson 2006, p. 89; The Nixon Center 2008, Nixon Center programs Archived September 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 9-29-2008.
  19. ^ "Time to Accept North Korea As a Nuclear Weapons State? – Center for the National Interest". cftni.org. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  20. ^ "Board of Directors – Center for the National Interest". cftni.org. Retrieved 2022-07-14.

Further reading