The Leaderboard: Danny Russel

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.

Who is he?

Daniel R. Russel, better known as Danny, is currently serving as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs on the White House National Security Staff (NSS).  From 2009 to 2011, he was the NSS Director for Japan, South Korea, and North Korea.Before joining the NSS, Mr. Russel was Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs at the Department of State.

Barack Obama at Government House in Bangkok

Danny Russel (left), along with Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer brief President Obama while at the Government House in Thailand in November 2012. President Obama announced his intent to nominate Danny Russel to serve as Assistant Secretary of State on May 15. Source: U.S. Government Work.

A thoughtful insider with well-honed bureaucratic situational awareness, Russel has played a central role in the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia and has a deep knowledge of the region.

Why is he in the news?

On May 15, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Danny Russel for the position of Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs within the Department of State, a position Kurt Campbell, resigned in February.

Russel’s nomination comes amid what appears to be a White House push to place its key personnel in important Asia policy positions. Friend and key pre-White House adviser to the president, Mark Lippert, catapulted like a carrier-born fighter jet at the Pentagon from Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs to Chief of Staff, and the NSC’s Mike Froman was nominated May 2 as USTR. Russel’s new role will place him at the forefront of diplomatic relations with the region as the U.S. government faces challenges and opportunities, such as maritime territorial disputes, North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, and an evolving Myanmar.

What can we expect?

Expect an experienced pair of good hands, careful commitment and a strong team player. Whereas Kurt Campbell was a big thinker and effective marketer of ideas, Russel is more the implementer. Look for him to focus on the important work of building institutions, supporting the diplomacy to make good relationships better, and perhaps leaning ever so slightly toward alliances over architecture and Northeast Asia over Southeast Asia based on his experience.


1 comment for “The Leaderboard: Danny Russel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *