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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 the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

Faculty Director, Future of Diplomacy Project

Faculty Chair, Middle East Initiative

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
Publications: http://pages05.net/hks-belfercenter/forms/NicholasBurns

 

Experience

Nicholas Burns is the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice 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 International, the Diplomacy Center Foundation, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, The Trilateral Commission, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the Atlantic Council, America Abroad Media, the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, the Boston Committee on Foreign Relations 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 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

 

2016

Cover photo: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

June 2016

Restoring the Power and Purpose of the NATO Alliance

Report

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School and General (ret.) James L. Jones, USMC, Former Senior Advisor, Preventive Defense Project

Nicholas Burns and James L. Jones, Jr., former National Security Advisor and retired Marine Corps General, co-authored a major report released this week by the Atlantic Council: “Restoring the Power and Purpose of the NATO Alliance.” They argue in this report that the next American president must provide strong U.S. leadership to cope with the most serious threat to peace and security in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

 

 

AP

June 3, 2016

"Our next president must maintain America’s strong partnership with India"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

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

In this June 3 Washington Post op Ed, Professor Burns details the dramatic rise of India as a strategic partner of the United States. During the last two decades, Washington and Delhi have transformed a once deeply suspicious and often contentious relationship into one with expanding ties in counter terrorism, homeland security, science and technology, defense, clean energy and other areas. Burns stresses that our next president should continue this bipartisan push to make India one of our most important friends in an increasingly fragile Asian security environment.

 

 

May 24, 2016

"Trump fails the Hiroshima test"

Op-Ed, USA Today

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

When Barack Obama makes the first ever visit by an American president to Hiroshima this week, it will be a sobering reminder of the extraordinary power that comes with his office. In this USA Today op-ed, Nicholas Burns reminds readers why the presidential election this fall is so important and why Donald Trump’s candidacy is so troubling and potentially dangerous.

 

 

April 18, 2016

"Illustrations and Influence: Soft Diplomacy and Nation Branding through Popular Culture"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Harvard International Review

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

This Harvard International Review piece examines the use of pop culture as a diplomatic strategy stands in appealing, warm, and humane opposition to the threat of military power. “Cultural programs are a demonstration of our good faith. They can help to change the mood if successful,” said Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State under the Bush Administration and Harvard Kennedy School professor.

 

 

AP

March 22, 2016

"Barack Obama has risked US credibility in the Middle East"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

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

America is not fated to fall from grace but much will depend on future leaders, writes Nicholas Burns.

 

 

AP

February 5, 2016

"The diplomatic case for America to create a safe zone in Syria"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

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

In this Washington Post op-ed, two former U.S. ambassadors, Nicholas Burns and James Jeffrey, make the diplomatic case for America to create a safe zone in Syria. They advocate a much stronger American role to: 1) push for humanitarian corridors into Syria to help civilians under siege from the Assad government and rebel groups and some at risk of starvation; and 2) that the Administration reconsider its refusal to form a regional coalition to engineer a safe zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border where civilians can flee to safety enforced by a No Flight Zone in the same area and; 3) that we should commit American soldiers to help organize and police the zones in order to recruit the majority of the zone's soldiers from our allies and partners.

 

 

AP

January 19, 2016

"Talk to Tehran, but Talk Tough"

Op-Ed, The New York Times

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

In this New York Times op-ed, Professor Burns relfects on the historic developments in the U.S. relationship with Iran, with the lifting of sanctions and the release of four U.S. prisoners.

 

2015

AP

November 15, 2015

With attacks, ISIS now a global worry

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Harvard Gazette

By Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School and Juliette Kayyem, Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

In this interview with the Harvard Gazette, Nicholas Burns and Juliette Kayyem offer their respective views on the immediate lessons to be drawn from the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13.

Professor Burns says that this attack demonstrates clearly that the Islamic State has the reach and capacity to carry out complex, lethal terrorist operations well beyond its own region. In response, the U.S. and its Arab, Turkish and European partners must shift from seeking to contain ISIS to defeating it. That will require stronger and more assertive U.S. leadership than we have seen to date.  While the U.S. should not commit ground combat troops to this effort, we are the only country that has the influence and capacity to lead a broad international coalition to defeat ISIS at its base in northern Syria as well as in Iraq.

Professor Burns suggests how we might start to build such a coalition in this interview.

 

 

Justin Lane

September 2, 2015

"What Should Obama Do Next on Iran?"

Op-Ed, The New York Times

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

In this op-ed for the New York Times, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Nicholas Burns ​predicts that President Obama will have the votes to pass the Iran deal through Congress​ in what will be the most "important [vote] since the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003." The former U.S. Undersecretary of State maintains that President Obama should use coercive diplomacy to gain both bipartisan support at home and engender "an Obama pivot back to American leadership in the Middle East" that will stabilize the Middle East and protect American vital interests in the region.

 

 

August 5, 2015

"The Implications of Sanctions Relief Under the Iran Agreement"

Testimony

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

Nicholas Burns testified on August 5, 2015, before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, on "The Implications of Sanctions Relief Under the Iran Agreement."


"Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Brown and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify on the international agreement to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power and the implications for sanctions relief.

This is one of the most urgent and important challenges for our country, for our European allies as well as for Israel and our Arab partners in the Middle East.  The United States must thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and its determination to become the dominant military power in the region."

 
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 Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.