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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

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

December 17, 2014

"U.S.-Cuba ties: In from the cold"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Harvard Gazette

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

Following 18 months of secret talks facilitated by Pope Francis and the Canadian government, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the United States and Cuba will re-establish diplomatic and economic relations, ending a political stalemate that began more than half a century ago.

Under the agreement, the United States will open an embassy in Havana; many existing travel, trade, and banking restrictions imposed on American citizens and businesses will be loosened; and Secretary of State John Kerry will review Cuba’s presence on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Additionally, Obama said, two American prisoners in Cuba, contractor Alan Gross and an unidentified U.S. intelligence officer, were released in exchange for three Cuban spies who had been jailed in the United States since 2001.

In separate phone and email exchanges, the Gazette turned to two Harvard authorities on Cuba and American foreign policy to interpret the importance of the U.S. policy shift with the island nation, one of the last bastions of communist rule in the world, and where the agreement likely will lead, both economically and politically. The changes also have implications for Harvard.

Nicholas Burns is the Sultan of Oman Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). A former U.S. ambassador to NATO and Greece and a career Foreign Service officer, Burns is also director of the Future of Diplomacy Project at HKS. Here are their insights.

Jorge Domínguez is co-chair of Harvard’s Cuban Studies Program, focusing on Cuba’s domestic and international politics and economics. He is also vice provost of international affairs at Harvard and the Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

These interviews were lightly edited for length and clarity.

 

 

AP

December 4, 2014

"Obama needs to act on Syria"

Op-Ed, Boston Globe

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

The U.S. must act with much greater conviction to respond to the humanitarian meltdown in Syria. With more than 200,000 people dead and 11 million Syrians homeless--half the population--this is now in International Rescue Committee President David Miliband's words, "the greatest humanitarian crisis of the century."

What is needed? More cross-border aid to refugees trapped between a vicious Syrian government and rebel groups, pressure on Russia and China to support the relief effort, and expanded aid to reinforce neighboring Jordan and Lebanon. Professor Burns writes in his column, without decisive action, "Syria's civil war will almost certainly worsen as 2015 approaches."

 

 

Fall 2014

The Crisis with Russia

Book

By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School, Jonathon Price, Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School, Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Meghan L. O'Sullivan, Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School and Kevin Rudd, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

This edition is a collection of papers commissioned for the 2014 Aspen Strategy Group Summer Workshop. On the occasion of the 30th year anniversary of the Aspen Strategy Group (founded in 1984), the Summer Workshop in Aspen, Colorado convened a nonpartisan group of preeminent U.S.-Russia policy experts, academics, journalists, and business leaders. The group's policy discussions were guided by the papers found in this volume, whose scope ranges from exploring the history of the U.S.-Russia relationship, current developments in the Sino-Russian relationship, the NATO and European responses to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, energy considerations, areas of potential U.S.-Russia cooperation, and finally, the broader question of U.S. national security and interests in the European region.

Belfer Center-affiliated contributors include Nicholas Burns (co-editor), Joseph S. Nye (Foreword, with Brent Scowcroft), and chapter authors Graham Allison, Meghan O'Sullivan, and Kevin Rudd.

 

 

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.

 

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