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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

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 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 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

The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

November 19, 2014

"Obama's revival in foreign policy"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

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

It is far too early to count out President Obama as a foreign policy lame duck.

During last week's successful Asia trip, Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an important Climate Change agreement along with technology, visa and military transparency deals. This is a welcome sign that the US and China are capable of taking on tough challenges together.

But, there are other international obstacles ahead for Obama. Can he face down Vladimir Putin on Ukraine and find a way to reach a deal with Iran to block its nuclear ambitions?

Are we witnessing an Obama revival on foreign policy?

 

 

Jurgen Frank

November 6, 2015

"Henry Kissinger’s words of wisdom"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

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

As part of the American Secretaries of State Project--an joint initative of Harvard Kennedy School's Future of Diplomacy Project and Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation--Professor Nicholas Burns, along with Project co-chairs, Jim Sebenius (HBS) and Bob Mnookin (HLS), this week hosted one of Harvard's great sons, former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, for a day of discussion--with Harvard faculty and students--about the most demanding and important negotiations he conducted while serving in the nation’s highest foreign policy office.

In this op-ed piece, Professor Burns reflects on a fundamental theme in Dr. Kissinger's recently published book, "World Order." One of the book's central warnings is that the post-World War Two international system is fraying and is in danger of breaking down. He believes that modernizing and rebuilding world order is one of our greatest global challenges.

Professor Burns suggests that strong and even visionary American global leadership is imperative for both the White House and Congress. And, that 91-year old Henry Kissinger remains one of the most important strategic thinkers and diplomats in U.S. history.

 

 

Alex Wong/Pool via CNP

October 24, 2014

"Where does the US stand with India?"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

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

Professor Burns argues that the new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, must define in more concrete terms his country's future economic, political and security relationships with the U.S. Burns believes U.S.-Indian ties are critical for our future. The Obama Administration has been clear what it hopes to achieve. We need such clarity from Modi.

 

 

Mark Gabrenya / Getty

October 9, 2014

"Don't forget Canada and Mexico"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

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

In this week's op Ed, Professor Burns highlights the importance of North America to our global future.  The article praises last week's Council on Foreign Relations report led by David Petraeus and Bob Zoellick advocating a much greater U.S. focus on forming a closer trade, energy and security partnership with Canada and Mexico. Zoellick and Petraeus believe this is central to a successful American global strategy in the future.  He agrees.

 

 

AP

September 29, 2014

"A second chance with India"

Op-Ed, Washington Post

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

In this piece, Professor Burns presents one simple idea--President Obama has a second chance with Indian Prime Minister Modi's visit to the White House this week to get India right--to make it a priority in the Asia Pivot strategy and for the future. There is a clear Washington consensus among Republicans and Democrats that India will be one of our most important 21st century global partners.

On the other hand, Obama has every reason to push Modi to adopt more responsible Indian policies on global trade, climate change, Russia and Iran.

 

 

September 24, 2014

Arab allies key in fight against ISIS

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

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

Professor Burns argues that President Obama’s decision to order the attacks on ISIS in its home base in northern Syria was the correct one, and essential.  But, air strikes alone won’t bring an end to ISIS as it is too strong, too entrenched and too wealthy to be defeated by air power alone.  The U.S. needs an effective ground campaign.  That will have to be a combination of a reconstituted Iraqi army, the Kurdish Peshmerga and moderate Syrian rebel groups as it would be a great mistake to re-introduce into Iraq American ground combat forces.  This will be a long, dangerous and risky campaign.  It is a fight we did not seek but must now pursue.

 

 

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?

 

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