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Nicholas Burns

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

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Nicholas Burns

Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, 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 the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations 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.

Burns is Director of the Aspen Strategy Group, Senior Counselor at the Cohen Group, and serves on the Board of Directors of Entegris, Inc. He is a member of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board at the U.S. Department of State. He also 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 the 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

 

2015

AP

April 30, 2015

"Save Britannia"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

In advance of the May 7 Parliamentary elections, there's debate about Britain's reduced role in the world.  With its military weakened, its influence waning in the European Union and a seemingly diminished will to lead and to work closely with the United States, Britain's many friends in the U.S. and around the world should hope that the coalition government that emerges from the elections will move to reverse these worrisome trend lines.

 

 

AP

April 16, 2015

"The Iran deal’s rare achievement"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

In this article, Professor Burns reflects on the last decade of American attempts to negotiate with Iran. What neither party really wants to admit is that both of them were critical in getting the U.S. to this point. Democrats don't give President George W. Bush enough credit for having made the decision a decade ago to seek talks with Iran on the nuclear issue. And, Republicans can't bring themselves to acknowledge that President Barack Obama strengthened Bush's sanctions in a very effective way to induce Iran to negotiate.

While the two parties joust over Iran, it is in the interest of both to find a way to coalesce as the U.S. will be negotiating with Iran on a deal and its implementation for well beyond the next decade.  As Congress inserts itself into the negotiations this week, it would be wise to do so in a way that strengthens, rather than weakens, the President's hand in the tough talks ahead with Iran.

Finally, Professor Burns notes that is is worth remembering how far we have come to reach a possible final agreement with Iran. After nearly thirty five years of bitter separation from Iran, it is smart and useful for Americans to be at the negotiating table with Iranians trying to work out our many differences rather than see them play out on a distant battlefield.

 

 

AP

April 3, 2015

"Imperfect deal will help an uneasy peace"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

In a Financial Times commentary on the Iran nuclear deal over the weekend, Professor Burns argues that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry's negotiations are a tribute to the power of diplomacy. This is a sensible deal, far preferable to the many disadvantages of walking away from the negotiating table.

But, there is a long way to go for a final deal and the U.S. should set the bar high to ensure Iran meets its commitments as we have to expect Iran will cheat as it has done so frequently in the past.

Finally, Professor Burns stresses that we should resist the romantics among us who foresee the possibility of closer strategic ties to Iran on Middle East issues if the nuclear issue can be resolved. Burns see the reverse developing in the short term--profound disagreement with an Iran expanding its regional power in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. As he wrote in a separate column for the Boston Globe last week, this argues for the U.S. to reestablish a close strategic alignment with Turkey, the Gulf Arab states and Israel to firm up American power in the region.

 

 

Russ Campbell

April 3, 2015

"Albright, on negotiating"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Harvard Gazette

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Harvard on April 2-3, 2015 as part of the "American Secretaries of State Project," a joint venture with Harvard Kennedy, Law and Business Schools. She spent three intensive sessions attended by hundreds of Harvard students and faculty and led by the Project chairs (Nicholas Burns - HKS; Jim Sebenius - HBS; and Bob Mnookin - HLS), discussing some of her most important negotiations during their time in office, including the Balkans, Russia and the Middle East.

 

 

Olivier Douliery

April 3, 2015

"How Obama can win on Iran"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

In this op-ed, Professor Burns outlines his support for the Obama Administration’s framework agreement with Iran as a sensible step forward towards a final deal on June 30th.  President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have had their faith in diplomacy justified by their progress in containing Iran’s ability to become a nuclear weapons state. But, they will need to set a high bar for the final agreement, particularly in ensuring that verification procedures are air tight. And, Professor Burns reminds, we Americans should remember that Iran needs a deal more than we do.

Burns goes on to suggest that Obama must now pivot quickly to exercise strong Presidential leadership with four key groups to gain the necessary domestic and international support to implement an agreement.  He must: 1) Win the battle ahead on Capitol Hill; 2) Make up with Bibi; 3) Circle the Wagons with our key Sunni Arab partners Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; and 4) Keep together the coalition that sanctioned and negotiated with Iran (U.S., UK, France, Germany, China, Russia) in order to hold Tehran’s feet to the fire on an agreement.

 

 

AP

March 20, 2015

"Will Congress torpedo Obama’s Iran deal?"

Op-Ed

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

With the Iran nuclear negotiations coming down to the wire next week, Professor Burns argues for Congress to respect the President's lead role in the conduct of our foreign policy and to avoid interfering in the negotiations with Iran.

 

 

AP

March 3, 2015

"The problem with Putin"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

In this Boston Globe op-ed, Professor Burns writes about the tragedy of Boris Nemtsov's murder in Red Square and the need for the West to continue to shine a bright spotlight on the lack of freedom in Russia. He argues that the European and U.S. response to Russia's actions in Ukraine has been insufficient. In particular, Germany, the strongest European state, appears incapable of combining diplomacy and tougher measures effectively in its dealings with Russia. Professor Burns writes that it is timer for President Obama to lead a stronger Western response to Putin through greater economic sanctions against Russia, much more substantial financial aid to the Ukrainian government, the transfer of defensive arms to Kiev and a new move to station a strong contingent of NATO ground and air forces permanently on the territory of NATO allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Those forces will help to make credible to Putin NATO's Article V commitment to the security of the Baltic States.

 

 

AP

February 18, 2015

"Winning the generational struggle with Putin"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

In this article, Professor Burns illustrates all that Russian President Vladimir Putin has done to destabilize Eastern Ukraine during the past twelve months. He also makes the point that President Obama and Chancellor Merkel must now push back in three ways if the current cease-fire continues to unravel: 1) to agree on significantly stronger economic sanctions; 2) to provide much more substantial economic assistance to the Ukrainian government; and 3) to deliver lethal military assistance to the Ukrainian government.

 

 

AP

January 30, 2015

"Greece’s gamble"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

Professor Burns' column—“Greece’s Gamble—forecasts a major change in Greek policy on two big issues.  First, the Syriza-led government has challenged the EU, European Central Bank and IMF to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s massive bailout package.  And, second, the new government has argued this week for a much softer European stance against Russia.  Despite the fact that Greece decided not to block expanded EU sanctions at the EU Foreign Ministers meeting yesterday, Athens is signaling it may be an obstacle in the next weeks and months on this issue.

While a European-wide debate on the merits of continued austerity versus government stimulus is necessary, the confrontational stance of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will not win his government many friends in the EU.  If Tsipras continues to drive his government hard to the left on Greek debt and foreign policy, it will be a bumpy road ahead with both the major European governments and the U.S.

 

 

AP

January 29, 2015

"Remembering Auschwitz"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

Seventy years ago this week, the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz death camp.  And today is the 83rd birthday of Professor Burns' wife's uncle, Bernie Rosner, who survived Auschwitz and three other Nazi camps as a young boy.  During this Holocaust Remembrance Week, Professor Burns and his wife Libby wanted to pay tribute to Bernie's courage and determination to survive the deadly trials of the Holocaust and to his courage in making a new, happy and successful life here in the United States.   His story and that of every survivor and every victim needs to be told so that Hitler's crimes in the Holocaust be remembered as the decades pass.

 

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