R. Nicholas Burns: American diplomat and academic (born: 1956) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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R. Nicholas Burns
American diplomat and academic

R. Nicholas Burns

R. Nicholas Burns
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American diplomat and academic
Is Diplomat Professor Educator Politician
From United States of America
Field Academia Politics
Gender male
Birth 28 January 1956, Buffalo, Erie County, New York, USA
Age 67 years
Star sign Aquarius
Boston College
University of Paris
Johns Hopkins University
Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
Wellesley High School
Order of the Three Stars  
AAAS Fellow  
R. Nicholas Burns
The details (from wikipedia)


Richard Nicholas Burns (born January 28, 1956) is an American diplomat and academic who is a professor of diplomacy and international politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and a member of the Board of Directors of the school's Belfer Center for Science and 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 bi-weekly column on foreign affairs for The Boston Globe and is a senior foreign affairs columnist for GlobalPost. He also serves on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council, the Council on Foreign Relations, Special Olympics, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, American Media Abroad, the Gennadius Library and the Richard Lounsbery Foundation. Burns was in 2020 a Fulbright scholar at Queen Mary University of London and contributor to the New Statesman. Burns is vice chairman of the American Ditchley Foundation and serves on the panel of senior advisors at Chatham House. During his career in the State Department, he was United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs within the United States Department of State. Appointed by President George W. Bush, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 17, 2005, and was sworn into office by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. As under secretary, he oversaw the bureaus responsible for U.S. policy in each region of the world and served in the senior career Foreign Service position at the Department. He retired on April 30, 2008. He was a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. in summer 2008. In July 2009, Burns joined The Cohen Group, a consulting firm in Washington D.C, as a senior counselor.

President Joe Biden nominated Burns to be Ambassador to China in August 2021.

Early life and education

Burns was born in Buffalo, New York, and raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Burns attended Wellesley High School, and studied abroad in Luxembourg in 1973 with the American Field Service Program. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, with a concentration in European history, from Boston College. He also studied abroad at the University of Paris. He received a master's degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 1980 in international relations concentrating on international economics, American foreign policy, and Africa.

He speaks French, Arabic, and Greek as well as English.


Burns and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at NATO headquarters in Brussels, on December 2, 2003
Burns during the MSC 2016

Before entering the Foreign Service, Burns worked as program officer at A.T. International, a nonprofit organization specializing in economic assistance for Third World countries.

Burns began his Foreign Service career in Africa and the Middle East. He was an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott, Mauritania, Vice Consul and Staff Assistant to the Ambassador in Cairo, Egypt, from 1983 to 1985, and then political officer at the American Consulate General in Jerusalem from 1985 to 1987, where his second daughter Elizabeth was born in 1986. In this position, he coordinated U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian population in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Under President George H. W. Bush, he was director for Soviet (and then Russian after 1991) affairs. During this time, he attended all U.S.–Soviet summits and numerous other international meetings and specialized on economic assistance issues, U.S. ties with Russia and Ukraine, and relations with the Baltic countries. He was a member of the Department's Transition Team in 1988, and served as Staff Officer in the Department's Operations Center and Secretariat in 1987-1988.

Burns served for five years (1990–1995) on the National Security Council staff at the White House. He was special assistant to President Bill Clinton and Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Affairs. He had lead responsibility in the White House for advising the president on all aspects of U.S. relations with the fifteen countries of the former Soviet Union.

From 1995 to 1997, Burns was Spokesman of the Department of State and Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Secretary Madeleine Albright. In this position, he gave daily press conferences on U.S. foreign policy issues, accompanied both Secretaries of State on all their foreign trips and coordinated all of the Department's public outreach programs.

From 1997 to 2001, Burns was U.S. Ambassador to Greece. During his tenure as Ambassador, the U.S. expanded its military and law enforcement cooperation with Greece, strengthened their partnership in the Balkans, increased trade and investment and people-to-people programs.

Burns supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Prior to his final assignment, Burns was the United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As Ambassador to NATO, he headed the combined State-Defense Department U.S. Mission to NATO at a time when the Alliance committed to new missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war against terrorism, and accepted seven new members.

On January 18, 2008, Burns announced his retirement from the Foreign Service effective March 2008. The reason cited was to go back to family concerns and to pursue other opportunities outside of government. A White House press statement stated that Burns would continue to serve in an advisory capacity as the United States Special Envoy in finalizing the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act.

After leaving government service Burns started working for the Cohen Group, a consultancy and lobbying organization for arms manufacturers.

At the Harvard Kennedy School, Burns has taught courses in diplomacy, American foreign policy, and international politics. He is a strong advocate for diplomacy, and has argued that the United States "should make a very strong effort to get to the negotiating table with Iran." Burns is also an active speaker on the lecture circuit and in 2013 gave the lecture at the year's installment of the Waldo Family Lecture Series on International Relations at Old Dominion University.

Burns said that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a traitor: "He went to China and Russia. That is why I dislike Snowden." On the 2012 Benghazi attack, Burns defended Secretary of State Clinton, saying "I find it distasteful that Benghazi has been politicized." He endorsed Hillary Clinton's campaign for president.

Burns was a foreign policy adviser for the Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign, and was an informal adviser to Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign. As a Bush advisor Burns supported the Iraq War, though today he calls it “a pretty serious blunder” He is also the director of the Aspen Strategy Group, a forum of establishment foreign policy thinkers.

Burns has also consulted and given paid speeches for the employees of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, State Street, CitiBank, Honeywell, and a number of other companies, universities, and associations.

Ambassador to China

In August 2021, Burns was nominated by the Biden Administration to serve as Ambassador to China, with the nomination being sent to the Senate on September 13. Republican Marco Rubio has stalled Burns nomination citing his business relationships in china.

Personal life

He and his wife Elizabeth A. Baylies have three daughters: Sarah, Elizabeth and Caroline.


Burns is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, The Trilateral Commission, American Academy of Diplomacy, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Order of St. John, America Abroad Media advisory board, and is a lifelong member of Red Sox Nation.


Burns has received fifteen honorary degrees, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the 2017 Ignatian Award from Boston College, 2016 New Englander of the Year from the New England Council, the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Johns Hopkins University, the Boston College Alumni Achievement Award, the Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University, and the Trainor Award for Diplomacy by Georgetown University. He was named Communicator of the Year by the National Association of Government Communicators in 1997.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 30 Nov 2021. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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