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Former National Security Adviser O’Brien to chair Nixon Foundation, hopes to ‘educate’ US on China threat

EXCLUSIVE: Former White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, who was elected to serve as the chairman of the board of directors of the Richard Nixon Foundation, told Fox News that he hopes to use his position to help educate Americans on the threat China poses to the United States.

O’Brien, who served as national security adviser during the Trump administration from 2019 to 2021, in an interview with Fox News Digital said that former President Richard Nixon used “strategic diplomacy” to further “the cause of peace and ensure America’s security.”

“Today, 50 years after his trips to China and Russia — and as we approach the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War — his foreign policy represents the ultimate example of the type of strategic thinking that should again guide America today,” O’Brien said, adding that he hopes to encourage a “Nixonian style of thinking about world affairs and grand strategy” in his new role.

O’Brien told Fox News that during the Nixon administration there was a hope that China would “become wealthier, become more democratic and more liberal, and more like us.” 


“The opposite is true today,” O’Brien said. “They have become more oppressive and more authoritarian — they have gone a very different route than we expected.” 

O’Brien warned that China is “exercising its power to control free speech worldwide.” 

“They intend to become the number one superpower in the world, and want everyone else to have to pay homage,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien stressed the importance of “educating the public,” reflecting on his time in the Trump administration, working alongside then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then-Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, sits down with representatives of teachers and students at a symposium and delivers an important speech during a visit to Renmin University of China in Beijing, capital of China, April 25, 2022. 

“We need to let the American people know the threat and build a bipartisan consensus,” O’Brien said. “And that is something the Nixon Foundation can be a part of.”

O’Brien said he plans to work with the foundation to host seminars and programs featuring prominent officials who can help to “educate the American people on what we face in this competition with China and how deadly serious it is to our way of life.” 

As for the Biden administration’s handling of the evolving threat from Beijing, O’Brien said that there is “more continuity between the two administrations than people would believe.”

“Biden folks have left many of our policies in place, and I commend them,” O’Brien said while stressing the importance to continue on to “next steps.”

“They have had their attention directed to Afghanistan and Ukraine, but we need to make sure not to divert our attention from what is happening in the Pacific,” O’Brien said, stressing the importance of “rebuilding the U.S. Navy and having enough money in the defense budget,” as well as a U.S. military presence in the Pacific regions to “deter China.”


Just this week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley directed his staff to collect information on interactions between the U.S. and Chinese militaries in the last five years. Other Biden administration officials have also doubled down on their warnings that Beijing poses the greatest long-term threat to U.S. national security in recent weeks. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray earlier this month said China poses the “biggest long-term threat” to U.S. economic and national security.

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) also this month warned that state and local leaders are at “risk” of being “manipulated” to support “hidden” agendas by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as China seeks to target officials outside of Washington to lobby for Beijing-friendly policies at the federal level.

In April, CIA Director William Burns issued a similar warning to Wray’s — also noting that China has been “a silent partner” in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019. 

Burns, at the time, said China is “in many ways, the most profound test the CIA has ever faced,” calling China a “formidable competitor lacking in neither ambition nor capability.”

Meanwhile, with regard to China’s ambitions in taking Taiwan, O’Brien warned that the Chinese “have taken solace” in the fact that Russia is still able to operate, even amidst global sanctions.

“China is maybe calculating the sanctions it would face if it invaded Taiwan,” he said. “We need to make an example of the full range of economic sanctions on Russia.”


O’Brien served as national security adviser during the Trump administration from 2019 to 2021. During his tenure, the U.S. orchestrated the historic Abraham Accords in the Middle East, brokered economic normalization between Serbia and Kosovo, achieved significant defense spending increases among NATO allies, and instituted a new framework of strategic cooperation with allies across the Indo-Pacific.

Prior to his time as national security adviser, O’Brien served as the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and was directly involved in the return of more than 25 detainees and hostages to the United States.

In his new role as chairman, O’Brien will lead the development of the Richard Nixon Foundation’s inaugural “Grand Strategy Summit,” which is set to take place in Washington, D.C. The summit will gather top government officials and leaders to discuss ways to tackle geopolitical challenges and develop strategies to protect U.S. national security and interests.

“I’m really excited,” O’Brien told Fox News. “The Nixon Library is one of the hidden jewels in the presidential library system … it is quite a span of American history during the height of the Cold War.”

O’Brien succeeds Dr. James H. Cavanaugh as chairman. Cavanaugh will stay on the board.

“Ambassador O’Brien brings real accomplishment, reasoned leadership and sound judgment, as evidenced by his years of experience on the international scene,” Cavanaugh said. “We are pleased about this next chapter for the Nixon Foundation, which coincides with commemorations marking the 50th anniversary of the Nixon presidency’s visionary foreign policy.”

Nixon Foundation President and CEO Jim Byron said he is “thrilled to work with Ambassador O’Brien to encourage a national renewal of Nixonian grand strategy as a principle of America’s foreign policy.”

“Considering the near-impossible task of identifying a chairman as farsighted, strategic-thinking and generous with his time as Dr. Cavanaugh, the board has elected the best person capable of guiding the Foundation forward,” he said.

The Richard Nixon Foundation applies the legacy and vision of President Richard Nixon to defining issues that face the United States and the world today.

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