On April 30, Ron Asmus passed away
following a long struggle with cancer. Asmus, the head of the German Marshall Fund of the United States's Brussels Office, served as deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs from 1997-2000, and played a major role in expanding NATO to the former communist countries of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. He was also a veteran of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, having worked here as an analyst.
I didn't know Ron particularly well, but in all of my dealings with him he was nothing short of gracious. His passing will not only be mourned by his family, friends and colleagues, but also by so many people across the continent of Europe, to which he had devoted his career to making "whole, free and at peace."
In recent years, Ron had become one of the most persistent advocates for the integration of Georgia into the EU and NATO. In the aftermath of the 2008 Russian-Georgia War, when so many commentators were blaming the victim, Ron consistently framed the conflict in terms of the bigger picture: that it was Georgian independence, and its Westward orientation, which angered Moscow and set the groundwork for war.
As Robert Kagan writes,
"In short, Ron spent his life fighting for the freedom of others, and he continued to fight at a time when it became less fashionable in some circles. No one who had suffered under oppression ever had to wonder which side Ron was on, which is why so many turned to him for help when they were in need."
You can read my interview with Ron about his book,
"A Little War That Shook The World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West," here, and my review of it for "Commentary" here.