Helmut Sonnenfeldt was a consequential figure in 20th century American foreign policy. A career State Department Soviet affairs specialist and major architect of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union, he served alongside Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during a highly uncertain period.
Born in Berlin, he fled from Nazi Germany in 1938, spent six years as a student in England, and reached the U.S. as a refugee in 1944. After serving in the Army, including as a member of the American occupation forces in postwar Germany, he completed his education at Johns Hopkins University and embarked on a career in diplomacy. He served 25 years in the State Department and National Security Council where, in the words of Ambassador Winston Lord, “his guiding star was patriotism, the special kind shared by immigrants.”
Seven years after his death, the Brookings Institution, where he spent 32 years as a guest scholar, has published a festschrift — a written compendium of memories — by distinguished figures who knew him well. On November 18, Brookings hosted an event with some of Sonnenfeldt’s closest collaborators to honor his memory.
PanelistMichael E. O’Hanlon Director of Research - Foreign Policy, Director - Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology, Co-Director - Africa Security Initiative, Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology, Philip H. Knight Chair in Defense and StrategyRoberta Cohen Former Brookings Expert, Co-Chair Emeritus - Committee for Human Rights in North KoreaCesare Merlini Former Brookings Expert, Chairman, Board of Trustees - Istituto Affari Internazionali, Rome