Pueblo native advises White House on foreign policy and national security

Robin Brooks informed President Joe Biden the day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit in July.

The two world leaders had decided to issue a declaration of common principles, but they wanted more: a permanent climate-energy partnership. Brooks’ office drafted these complex political documents, and it was up to her to explain them to the president.

Biden sat down and read the papers, listened to Brooks’ explanation, and approved the documents.

“When the Chancellor came the next day for the meeting, she said: ‘Mr President, I am very proud of this statement which we are about to issue. I think it’s a great document, ”Brooks said.

“I wrote that. It’s awesome.

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Brooks, who grew up in Pueblo, is director for the Balkans and Central Europe at the White House National Security Council, a team of experts who advise the president on national security, military matters and foreign policy.

Although this was arguably the most prestigious position in his 20-plus-year career, Brooks landed the job without knowing the selection process.

“I just got a call one day and they asked me if I was ready to cut short my assignment in Belgrade and come back to the White House sooner,” she said.

These officials told him that his portfolio would include the Balkans, Central Europe and Germany.

“I feel lucky that someone knows my name or has stumbled upon my CV or whatever has happened,” she said.

From Belmont to the Balkans

Brooks, 47, grew up in the Belmont neighborhood and made his way through Pueblo schools, graduating from Pueblo East High School in 1992.

In East, she was part of the debate team and learned some of the skills she still uses in her current job.

“It gave me a lot of skills that are really useful for negotiation and persuasion,” she said. “Just being able to brief the president requires being good enough to speak concisely.”

Brooks studied political science and government at Smith College in Massachusetts. This is where his geopolitical interests flourished.

“I was very interested in Eastern Europe, in the transitions from communism to democracy. I knew I wanted to study Eastern Europe, so when I came to Smith that’s exactly what I ended up doing, ”she said.

After graduation, she spent a summer in Bulgaria to experience this kind of governance change in this newly democratic country.

Brooks received his doctorate. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley in 2004, then began his career in foreign affairs.

His first job was as a human rights officer in the US mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at the headquarters in Vienna. There, she oversaw the establishment of the OSCE Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Unit and related programs.

She then worked at the Turkish Embassy for two years, then as an Advisor on International Partnerships for Afghanistan and Pakistan, working under the guidance of accomplished diplomat Richard Holbrooke in the Obama administration.

Holbrooke, like Brooks, had a lot of experience with the countries of the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

“I was one of those people he hired to work on Afghanistan and Pakistan, because I think he saw it – albeit in a very different cultural context – as a similar task: a country that had been ruled autocratically by a small group of corrupt individuals who were not accountable to the citizens, ”she said.

A career where “things can change quickly”

Brooks was then posted to Moscow to work on the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. She advised on many issues, but specifically helped coordinate the adoption of Russian children into American families, until that whole plan fell through in 2014.

“While I was there, for reasons historians will probably find out 30 years from now, Putin kind of backtracked on everything,” she said. “A few months after we finalized the adoption treaty and a few families had successfully adopted Russian children and brought them back to the United States, he suddenly canceled that treaty and everything else on that list.”

“It’s interesting to work in the foreign service and see how quickly these things can change.

After Moscow, Brooks returned to Bulgaria for a year to work on economic issues, then to a job in the United States where she again advised on issues related to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

From 2016 to 2018, she worked on human rights issues.

“It was a bit like going back to the beginning of my career, going back to multilateral negotiations on human rights issues that some countries see as national concerns that shouldn’t be in international conversations, but they are really at the heart of the issue. America’s core values, ”she said.

Most recently, she was posted to Serbia before receiving the call to join the NSC.

It’s a long and semi-complicated career that has taken her across the world and spanned several presidential administrations, but she still remembers her Pueblo roots. Her high school German lessons and debate team experience gave her practical skills and cemented her interests, but she also credits southern Colorado with a certain worldview.

“Coming from a small, diverse part of the country, compared to people who spend their entire lives in New York City, I go to Eastern Europe and see the world in a different way,” she said. .

Brooks rightly calls his career an “adventure”.

“I haven’t done anything that I’m not proud of,” she said. “There are some things that are difficult that you cannot always achieve, but everything that I have achieved is something that I am really proud of.”

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Chieftain reporter Sara Wilson can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @WilsonSaraJane.

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