Victoria Coates is an academic and policy maker with senior experience across the U.S. government in the Congress, White House, and Department of Energy who is a senior fellow in international relations and national security at Heritage’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. She focuses on the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. energy security and strategy, and countering the threat from the People’s Republic of China.
Coates holds a BA from Trinity College, an MA from Williams College and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, all in art history. She is an established scholar in Italian Renaissance art who has taught at Penn, the University of Delaware, Washington College, and Dickinson College; she has also curated exhibitions at Penn, The Getty Villa, and the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Coates is the author and presenter of dozens of publications and conference papers worldwide on the intersections of art and history, including David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art (Encounter Books, 2016) and the forthcoming Seeing the Light: A History of Christianity in Twelve Works of Art (under contract with Encounter Books), which are part of a projected trilogy on the key tenets of Western Civilization: democracy, the Judeo-Christian moral code, and the primacy of the individual.
In 2007, Coates left academia to become the director of research in (former) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s personal office, where she was one of three principal aides for his memoir, Known and Unknown (Sentinel, 2011). In this capacity she provided drafting and editorial support for the book, and oversaw the digitization of Mr. Rumsfeld’s archives which span some five decades of public service and encompass millions of documents. The creative use of this primary source material in the book and its release on www.Rumsfeld.com led the Wall Street Journal to dub the project “the first memoir of the digital age.”
Coates joined (then) Governor of Texas Rick Perry’s primary campaign for President in 2011 as a senior advisor. She coordinated the Governor’s foreign policy positions and circle of outside advisors, and also travelled with him and participated in debate preparation. Coates continued as a consultant to Governor Perry on foreign policy until 2013, when she accepted the position of senior advisor for National Security in Senator Ted Cruz’s office. In this role she coordinated the Senator’s relevant policies related to the Armed Services, Judiciary, and Commerce Committees, including his participation in the National Defense Authorization Act process, and oversaw his communications strategy for national security issues.
Key legislative achievements from Senator Cruz’s first term include: co-sponsoring the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act beginning in 2014, adaptation of NDAA amendments such as the awarding of the Military Order of the Purple Heart to the victims of the 2009 terrorist attack on Fort Hood, TX, and an assessment of space-based missile defense capability to enhance homeland security, as well as an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act to deny visas to United Nations representatives who have engaged in terrorism—an action that effectively blocked the 1979 hostage-taker Hamid Aboutalebi from becoming Iran’s Permanent Representative to the U.N.
Coates also spear-headed the Senator’s effort to re-name the street in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington after the imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. Starting in 2015, Coates was double-hatted on Senator Cruz’s 2016 primary campaign for President overseeing national security policy, traveling with the candidate, and acting as a media surrogate. Coates also served as Staff Coordinator for Senator Cruz’s New York Times best-selling memoir, A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America (Broadside Books, 2015).
Coates joined (then) President Elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team for the National Security Council staff in 2016, and following the Inauguration she was appointed to the NSC as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Communications. Coates subsequently served as Senior Director for International Negotiations and for Middle Eastern Affairs, before being named Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Middle Eastern and North African Affairs in 2019. Coates assisted in establishing the NSC communication strategy, coordinated NSC policy related to the Middle East Peace Process, and supported the development of the December, 2017 National Security Strategy.
After moving to the Middle Eastern Affairs Directorate in 2018, Coates developed the concept of the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), designed to unite Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, and Egypt in security, economic and energy cooperation under U.S. leadership to expand U.S. regional influence and increase burden sharing. She maximized the historic U.S. investment in Israel, collaborating with Congress and the State Department to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and opposing attempts by malign actors to marginalize the Jewish state while working to integrate Israel into the Middle East, which culminated in the Abraham Accords with UAE and Bahrain.
Coates also took the NSC lead on the imposition of unprecedented U.S. economic sanctions on Iran in 2018, working across the U.S. government and with regional partners to ensure the effectiveness of the sanctions, and partnering with Saudi Arabia to ensure increased U.S. and Saudi oil production would replace supply impacted by the sanctions, which successfully mitigated projected spikes in energy markets.
In early 2020, Coates transferred to the Department of Energy to advise Secretary Brouillette on national security issues and act as his personal representative in the Middle East and North Africa. In the course of this work, she promoted the United States as an energy superpower, broadly advocated for U.S. industry as the partner of choice for up and downstream projects Africa during extended travel in Saudi Arabia and UAE, coordinated with Congress and DoE in the aftermath of the energy market crisis in April, 2020 to promote stability and recovery, and supported U.S. observer status in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum.
In addition, Coates prioritized protection of U.S. energy industry security and intellectual property across the Middle East, working with regional partners to establish mechanisms curtailing investment of untrusted vendors, primarily Chinese state-owned entities, that would impact future collaboration with the U.S. Coates also engaged regional partners on critical infrastructure security, encouraging cooperation between Dragos and Saudi Arabia on cyber-security platforms supported by the Department of Energy, and overseeing collaboration between the Idaho National Lab and UAE on cyber-security for the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant.
At the conclusion of the Trump administration, Coates became the Director of Middle Eastern Programs at the Center for Security Policy then a Distinguished fellow a the American Foreign Policy Council. In the course of this work Coates has published on a broad range of national security topics in outlets such as Bloomberg, The Daily Mail, The Federalist, FoxNews.com, The Hill, The Jerusalem Post, National Review, The New York Post, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, and The Wall Street Journal. She also appears regularly on the BBC, Fox News, the Fox Business Network, and Newsmax.
Coates is married with two children and three dogs, and divides her time between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.