Senior Adviser, Chatham House; Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University


Nicholas Burns is the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Massachusetts. He is director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and faculty chair of the programmes 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 US 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. 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 27 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 US–India Civil Nuclear Agreement; a long-term military assistance agreement with Israel; and was the lead US negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. He was US ambassador to NATO (2001–05), ambassador to Greece (1997–2001) and State Department spokesman (1995–97). He worked for five years (1990–95) 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 HW Bush. Burns also served in the American Consulate General in Jerusalem (1985–87) where he coordinated US economic assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and before that, at the American embassies in Egypt (1983-85) and Mauritania (1980 as an intern).

Professor Burns has received 12 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.