The Jamestown Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based institute for research and analysis, founded in 1984 as a platform to support Soviet defectors. Today its stated mission is to inform and educate policy makers about events and trends, which it regards as being of current strategic importance to the United States. Jamestown publishes numerous publications that focus on China, Russia, Eurasia, and global terrorism.
The Jamestown Foundation was founded in 1984 after Arkady Shevchenko, the highest-ranking Soviet official ever to defect when he left his position as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, defected in 1978. William Geimer, an American lawyer, had been working closely with Shevchenko, and established the foundation as a vehicle to promote the writings of the former Soviet diplomat and those of Ion Pacepa, a former top Romanian intelligence officer; with the help of the foundation, both defectors published bestselling books. The CIA Director William J. Casey helped back the formation of The Jamestown Foundation, agreeing with its complaints that the U.S. intelligence community did not provide sufficient funding of Soviet bloc defectors. The foundation, initially also dedicated to supporting Soviet dissidents, enabled the defectors from the Eastern Bloc to earn extra money by lecturing and writing.
According to its website: "The mission of the Jamestown Foundation is to inform and educate policy makers and the broader policy community about events and trends in those societies which are strategically or tactically important to the United States and which frequently restrict access to such information. Utilizing indigenous and primary sources, Jamestown’s material is delivered without political bias, filter or agenda. It is often the only source of information which should be, but is not always, available through official or intelligence channels, especially in regard to Eurasia and terrorism." The Foundation describes its "unique ability to elicit information from those who have first-hand experience with the regimes and groups that threaten U.S. national security". It claims to have "contributed directly to the spread of democracy and personal freedom in the former Communist Bloc countries."
In the past, Jamestown's board of directors has included Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Jamestown's current board includes Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel, who has served in the Bill Clinton White House and in 2009 was tasked by President Barack Obama to overhaul U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As of 2010, the foundation’s current board includes General Michael V. Hayden, Bruce Riedel, Carlton W. Fulford Jr., Kathleen Troia McFarland, Bruce Hoffman, James H. Burnley IV and Frank Keating, while the Jamestown's fellows included David Satter, Michael Scheuer (let go in 2009, he claims he was fired because of his criticism of the U.S.-Israeli relations), Vladimir Socor, Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a Hong Kong-based China specialist, and Stephen Ulph, a leading expert on Jihadist ideology.
On December 8, 2011, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator for the Obama administration praised Jamestown for its research and analysis of terrorism issues. In his keynote address given at Jamestown's Fifth Annual Terrorism Conference, Amb. Benjamin remarked: "Because of its [Jamestown's] commitment to serious scholarship and analysis on terrorism issues, I can't think of a more appropriate place to do an end-of-year reckoning on Al-Qaeda – an assessment that is particularly timely after such a remarkable year."
Currently, its primary focus is on China, Eurasia, Russia and global terrorism. As of 2008, its publications were Eurasia Daily Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, China Brief, North Caucasus Weekly, (formerly Chechnya Weekly) and Recent From Turkey. Previous publications included Eurasia Security Trends, Fortnight in Review, North Korea Review, Russia and Eurasia Review, Russia’s Week, Spotlight on Terror, Terrorism Focus and Terrorism Monitor. Along with these publications, Jamestown produces occasional reports and books.
The foundation hosts Russian artist Nikolai Getman's paintings of Gulag camps. Getman was imprisoned for eight years by the Soviet regime for participating in anti-Soviet propaganda as a result of a caricature of Stalin that one of his friends had drawn on a cigarette box. He survived, and for four decades he secretly labored at creating a visual record of the Gulag system. In September 2009, the Jamestown Foundation transferred the Getman collection to the Heritage Foundation.
An article published in The Jamestown Foundation publication China Brief was credited by a Taiwanese newspaper as prompting the Taiwanese government to conduct a review of the island's defence strategy. According to a May 5, 2010 report in the Taipei-based newspaper United Daily News, the China Brief article, “Taiwan’s Navy: Able to Deny Command of the Sea?", published on April 16, 2010 written by James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara at the U.S. Naval War College, was reportedly the reason why Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou recently directed the Ministry of National Defense to re-evaluate the country's naval strategy. China Brief editor L.C. Russell Hsiao noted that this development was a major achievement for the publication and attests to the range and impact it has on the policy making community. Published since May 2001, China Brief has a global readership of nearly 8,000 subscribers and is widely read by defence and foreign policy experts around the world, particularly policy makers in the United States.
The Jamestown Foundation has been criticized by the Institute for Policy Studies for advancing a conservative agenda.
In 2009 Russian government accused the research institute of spreading anti-Russian propaganda by hosting a debate on violence in the Russia's turbulent region of Ingushetia. According to a statement by the Foreign Ministry of Russia: "Organisers again and again resorted to deliberately spreading slander about the situation in Chechnya and other republics of the Russian North Caucasus using the services of supporters of terrorists and pseudo-experts. Speakers were given carte blanche to spread extremist propaganda, incite ethnic and inter-religious discord." The Jamestown Foundation responded by saying that Russia felt threatened by it and was trying to intimidate it. Foundation president Glen Howard claimed that "they're intimidated by the power of the free word and this goes against the state manipulation of the media in Russia."