Belfer Center Home > Experts > Nicholas Burns

« Back to list of experts

Nicholas Burns

Mailing address

Littauer 374
John F. Kennedy School of Government
79 JFK St.
Cambridge, MA, 02138

Website
High Res Photo
Downloadable CV

Nicholas Burns

Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Contact:
Telephone: 617-495-2495
Email: nicholas_burns@hks.harvard.edu
Website: http://www.twitter.com/rnicholasburns

 

Experience

Nicholas Burns is Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  He is Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and Faculty Chair for the Programs on the Middle East and on India and South Asia. He serves on the Board of Directors of the School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and is a Faculty Associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

He is Director of the Aspen Strategy Group, Senior Counselor at the Cohen Group, and serves on the Board of Directors of Entegris, Inc.  He writes a biweekly column on foreign affairs for the Boston Globe.

Burns serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including the Council on Foreign Relations, Special Olympics, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the Atlantic Council, American Media Abroad, the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and the Gennadius Library.  He is Vice Chairman of the American Ditchley Foundation and serves on the Panel of Senior Advisors at Chatham House: the Royal Institute of International Affairs.  He is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Trilateral Commission, the Order of Saint John, and Red Sox Nation.

Professor Burns served in the United States government for twenty-seven years.  As a career Foreign Service Officer, he was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008; the State Department’s third-ranking official when he led negotiations on the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement; a long-term military assistance agreement with Israel; and was the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. He was U.S. Ambassador to NATO (2001–2005), Ambassador to Greece (1997–2001) and State Department Spokesman (1995–1997).  He worked for five years (1990–1995) on the National Security Council at the White House where he was Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs and Special Assistant to President Clinton and Director for Soviet Affairs in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush. Burns also served in the American Consulate General in Jerusalem (1985–1987) where he coordinated U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and before that, at the American embassies in Egypt (1983-1985) and Mauritania (1980 as an intern).

Professor Burns has received twelve honorary degrees, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from Johns Hopkins University, the Boston College Alumni Achievement Award and the Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University. He has a BA in History from Boston College (1978), an MA in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (1980), and earned the Certificat Pratique de Langue Francaise at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (1977). He was a visiting Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in summer 2008.

 

 

By Date

 

2014

September 11, 2014

"Obama's battle plan"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

Nick Burns argues that we may be witnessing a rethink in President Obama’s foreign policy.  On the Middle East, his proposed strategy is forceful and sensible.  But, it will require substantial participation by the Sunni Arab states, the strengthening of both the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga forces and American air strikes against ISIS inside Syria itself.  On the Russia/Ukraine crisis, Obama led an impressive strengthening of NATO at the NATO Summit in Wales last week.  But, he will now have to convince Europe to undertake stronger sanctions against Russia and to agree on the delivery of defensive weaponry to the Ukrainian government.  Obama will need strong support from the Congress and public to pursue a tough-minded and successful U.S. strategy on both crises.

 

 

August 31, 2014

"Three critical tests for NATO leaders in Wales"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

This week's NATO Summit meeting in Wales will be among the most consequential in the Alliance's 65-year history. President Obama and Europe's leaders will contend with three major challenges.

First, they should agree on stronger sanctions against Russia following the move of Russian troops across the border into Ukraine during the last week. They should also agree to provide military equipment to the embattled Ukrainian government so that it can defend its country. Second, the European allies should agree to help the U.S. contain ISIS in Iraq and Syria. And, third, NATO should reconsider its decision to remove all combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. That will give the Taliban an open road to destabilize the new Afghan government.

These crises pose major challenges to this generation of NATO leaders. NATO will need strong American leadership, in particular, if it is to succeed in maintaining its status as the world's most powerful and effective alliance.

 

 

AP

August 29, 2014

"Passage to India"

Journal Article, Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct2014, Vol. 93 Issue 5

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

Professor Burns examines the importance of the U.S.-India partnership in the century head. Specifically, in the countries' mutual interests in spreading democracy, expanding trade, countering terrorism, and peacekeeping efforts in the face of China's growing military power.

 

 

AP

August 28, 2014

"Why do some hostages die, and some are released?"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

This week witnessed contrasting stories of two Americans caught in the tornado of violence in the Middle East: the savage murder of journalist James Foley and the joyous release of Peter Theo Curtis. Nicholas Burns examines the question at the forefront of many minds: Why do some hostages die, and some are released?

 

 

August 14, 2014

"Obama’s greatest foreign policy test"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

This week, Professor Burns' Boston Globe column discusses the two most serious global crises of the Obama Presidency--Putin's aggression in Ukraine and the disintegration of Iraq with the rise of ISIS.

 

 

(AP Photo/DOD)

August 3, 2014

"Learn, But Don't Overlearn, Vietnam's Lessons"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

A half century after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution catapulted the United States head first into the tragedy of Vietnam, three lessons stand out, writes Nicholas Burns.

First, the memory of over 58,000 American soldiers lost in that long, tortuous war compels our presidents to set the bar very high when contemplating the use of force....Second, presidents can too often see the military as a quick fix for complex international problems....But, third, we can also misinterpret or overlearn the lessons of bitter wars such as Vietnam and Iraq.

 

 

August 3, 2014

"Learn, but don’t overlearn, Vietnam’s lessons"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, Nicholas Burns writes about three important lessons from the American experience in Vietnam.

 

 

AP

July 31, 2014

"Stronger sanctions are needed to stop Putin"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

VLADIMIR PUTIN has broken all the rules of geopolitics in Ukraine over the last five months. He finally had to pay for his actions this week. The coordinated list of tougher financial, military, and energy sanctions announced by the United States and European Union is a potential turning point. But is it enough to convince Putin to turn back from his determination to split Ukraine effectively in two?

 

 

AP

July 17, 2014

"A Cold War lesson for Iran"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

In tribute to former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze who died last week, Nicholas Burns reflects on the admirable and successful diplomacy by veteran diplomats of former rivals -- the U.S. and U.S.S.R. -- to bring a peaceful end to the Cold War. From this seemingly unlikely and remarkable outcome, he draws lessons on how we might proceed on another Cold War — our 35-year struggle with Iran, now at a critical juncture.

 

 

AP

July 3, 2014

"The Middle East at a tipping point"

Op-Ed

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

Professor Burns points out the tragic irony of an unraveling Middle East just a month after President Obama proclaimed at West Point's commencement that "the decade of war" was behind us. At a pivitol moment in the history of the Middle East, ISIS's declaration of a radical caliphate spanning northern Syria and western Iraq could destabilize the region for years to come.

 

SUBSCRIBE

Receive email updates on the most pressing topics in science and int'l affairs.

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.