William Joseph Burns
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William Joseph Burns
William Joseph Burns
17th United States Deputy Secretary of State

July 28, 2011 - November 3, 2014
PresidentBarack Obama
James Steinberg
Tony Blinken
United States Secretary of State

January 20, 2009 - January 21, 2009
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Barack Obama
Condoleezza Rice
Hillary Clinton
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

May 13, 2008 - July 28, 2011
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Barack Obama
R. Nicholas Burns
Tom Shannon (Acting)
5th United States Ambassador to Russia

November 8, 2005 - May 13, 2008
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Alexander Vershbow
John Beyrle
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs

June 4, 2001 - March 2, 2005
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Edward S. Walker Jr.
David Welch
United States Ambassador to Jordan

August 9, 1998 - June 4, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
George W. Bush
Wesley Egan
Edward Gnehm
Executive Secretary of the United States Department of State

January 16, 1996 - February 27, 1998
PresidentBill Clinton
Kenneth C. Brill
Kristie Kenney
Personal details
Born (1956-04-04) April 4, 1956 (age 64)
Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S.
Spouse(s)Lisa Carty
EducationLa Salle University (BA)
St John's College, Oxford (MPhil, DPhil)

William Joseph Burns (born April 11, 1956) is President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace[1] and former United States Deputy Secretary of State (2011-2014). He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a thirty-three-year diplomatic career. Burns previously served as Ambassador of the United States to Jordan from 1998 to 2001, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs from 2001 to 2005, Ambassador of the United States to the Russian Federation from 2005 until 2008, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2008 to 2011, among other senior roles in Washington and abroad. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador,[2] and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary of State.[3]

Early life and education

Burns was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in history from La Salle University and M.Phil. and D.Phil. degrees in international relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar.


U.S. Foreign Service

Ambassador Burns entered the Foreign Service in 1982, and served as Deputy Secretary of State from 2011 until 2014. Previously, he served as Under Secretary for Political Affairs from 2008 until 2011. He was U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2005 until 2008, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2001 until 2005, and U.S. Ambassador to Jordan from 1998 until 2001. Before these, he was also Executive Secretary of the State Department and Special Assistant to Secretaries Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright; Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow; Acting Director and Principal Deputy Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff; and Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.

Burns, together with George Tenet was instrumental in forcing through the short-lived Israeli-Palestinian cease fire agreement of June 2001.[4][5] He played a leading role in the elimination of Libya's illicit weapons program, and the secret bilateral channel with the Iranians that led to a historic interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1.[6] He also played a major role in efforts to re-set relations with Russia early in the Obama Administration and in the strengthening of the strategic partnership with India.

A cable Burns signed as ambassador and released by WikiLeaks[7] describing "a high society wedding in the Caucasus -- complete with massive quantities of alcohol, lumps of gold and revolver-wielding drunkards" attended by President Ramzan Kadyrov,[8] received widespread international coverage, with historian Timothy Garton Ash writing that "Burns's analyses of Russian politics are astute," with the "highly entertaining account" of the wedding "almost worthy of Evelyn Waugh."[9]

Retirement from the Foreign Service

On April 11, the State Department announced Burns would step down as Deputy Secretary of State in October 2014, after he twice delayed his retirement first at the request of Secretary John Kerry and then at the request of President Obama.

In a press statement announcing Ambassador Burns' decision to retire, Secretary of State John Kerry said that "Bill is a statesman cut from the same cloth, caliber, and contribution as George F. Kennan and Chip Bohlen, and he has more than earned his place on a very short list of American diplomatic legends".[10] Kerry lauded Burns' "quiet, head-down, get-it-done diplomacy", stating that it had earned him the trust of both Republican and Democratic administrations.

President Obama, in his own statement, said Ambassador Burns "has been a skilled advisor, consummate diplomat, and inspiration to generations of public servants...the country is stronger for Bill's service".[11]

The Atlantic called him the "secret diplomatic weapon" deployed against some of the United States' thorniest foreign policy challenges.[12]

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Burns was appointed the ninth President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on February 4, 2015, where he leads a global network of 140 scholars across 20 countries and six centers.

Burns was widely assumed to be on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's shortlist of Secretary of State nominees, had she won.[13]


His bestselling memoir, The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal, was published by Random House in 2019. It was published in conjunction with an archive of nearly 100 declassified diplomatic cables. For The Back Channel, Burns received The Douglas Dillon Book Award for Books of Distinction on the Practice of American Diplomacy (2019).[14]

In 2019, he was made a "Contributing Writer" at The Atlantic magazine.

Burns writes regularly on U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy for the New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.[15]

His Oxford dissertation was published in 1985 as Economic Aid and American Policy Toward Egypt, 1955-1981.


Burns is the recipient of three Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and a number of Department of State awards, including three Secretary's Distinguished Service Awards, the Secretary's Career Achievement Award, the Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Ambassadorial Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development (2006), the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award (2005), and the James Clement Dunn Award (1991). He also received the Department of Defense Award for Distinguished Public Service (2014), the U.S. Intelligence Community Medallion (2014), and the Central Intelligence Agency's Agency Seal Medal (2014).

In 1994, Burns was named to TIME Magazine's lists of "50 Most Promising American Leaders Under Age 40" and "100 Most Promising Global Leaders Under Age 40".[16] He was named Foreign Policy's "Diplomat of the Year" in 2013.[17] He is the recipient of Anti-Defamation League's Distinguished Statesman Award (2014),[18] the Middle East Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), and the American Academy of Diplomacy's Annenberg Award for Diplomatic Excellence (2015).[19]

Burns holds four honorary doctoral degrees and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[20] He is also an honorary Fellow, St. John's College, Oxford (from 2012).[21]

Foreign Government Decorations

Personal life

Burns and his wife Lisa Carty have two daughters. After retiring from the Foreign Service, Burns and his wife began contributing to Democratic Party candidates.[]


  1. ^ "Ambassador William J. Burns Named Next Carnegie President". National Endowment for Democracy (NEFD). 28 October 2014. Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/principalofficers/career-ambassador
  3. ^ https://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/william-burns-retire-department-of-state-105648
  4. ^ Ephron, Dan (13 June 2001). "US rokers a cease-fire in Mid-East 11th hour Deal Spells Out Steps; Disputes Remain". Boston Globe. ProQuest 405392064.
  5. ^ "The Tenet Plan : Israeli-Palestinian Ceasefire and Security Plan, Proposed by CIA Director George Tenet; June 13, 2001". Avalon Project. Yale Law School. Retrieved 2017.
  6. ^ Gordon, Michael (April 11, 2014). "Diplomat Who Led Secret Talks with Iran Plans to Retire". New York Times. Retrieved 2014.
  7. ^ "US embassy cables: A wedding feast, the Caucasus way", 1 Dec 2010, The Guardian
  8. ^ http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/wedding-in-the-caucasus-the-us-ambassador-learns-that-cognac-is-like-wine-a-732370.html
  9. ^ Garton Ash, Timothy (November 28, 2010). "US Embassy Cables: A Banquet of Secrets". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014.
  10. ^ "Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns' Decision to Retire in October 2014". www.state.gov. Retrieved 2014.
  11. ^ "Statement by President Obama on the Retirement of Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns". Retrieved 2014.
  12. ^ Kralev, Nicholas (April 4, 2013). "The White House's Secret Diplomatic Weapon". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014.
  13. ^ http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/hillary-clinton-john-kerry-secretary-state-226740
  14. ^ https://www.academyofdiplomacy.org/recipient/william-burns/
  15. ^ https://carnegieendowment.org/experts/1014
  16. ^ https://time.com/3618532/future-leaders-of-the-1990s/
  17. ^ "Bill Burns Honored as Diplomat of the Year". foreignpolicy.com. Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2014.
  18. ^ "Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns Presented with ADL Award". www.adl.org. Retrieved 2014.
  19. ^ https://www.academyofdiplomacy.org/award/annenberg-excellence-in-diplomacy-award/
  20. ^ http://carnegieendowment.org/experts/1014
  21. ^ "RAI in America". www.rai.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2014.
  22. ^ https://www.marshallscholarship.org/the-scholarship/the-marshall-medal

External links

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