American Diplomacy: Past, Present and Future

William Burns provides insights into his profession as a diplomat and makes the case for American diplomacy in an increasingly volatile world.

Members event, Panel Recording
1 April 2019 — 6:00PM TO 7:00PM
Chatham House | 10 St James's Square | London | SW1Y 4LE

Since coming to power in January 2017, US President Donald Trump has been accused of changing the rules of American diplomacy. From his decisions to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal to ending US participation in the Paris agreement on climate change, he has consistently advocated for ‘America First’ in US foreign relations.

On the one hand, commentators have contended that such a policy has come at the expense of long-standing diplomatic ties. On the other hand, Trump’s supporters have praised the president for attempting to tackle difficult foreign diplomacy challenges, such as the denuclearization of North Korea, which have proved intractable in the face of conventional diplomatic efforts.

Drawing on his experience as an American diplomat, William Burns provides insights into his profession and makes the case for American diplomacy in an increasingly volatile world.

Reflecting on some of the most consequential diplomatic episodes of his career, from the end of the Cold War to post-9/11 tumult in the Middle East and secret nuclear talks with Iran, he analyses what lessons from history remain relevant for international relations today.

To what extent has there been a shift in the nature of international diplomacy over recent years and what is the value of American diplomacy in today’s changing world order?


Ambassador William J Burns, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Deputy Secretary of State (2011-14), US Government; Author, The Back Channel: American Diplomacy in a Disordered World

Chair: Dr Leslie Vinjamuri, Head, US & Americas Programme and Dean of the Queen Elizabeth II Academy, Chatham House

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