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Ambassador Nick Burns on US-China Relations

It was great to have a coffee with Ambassador Nick Burns whilst I was passing through Boston earlier this week. Now a Professor  of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard,  Nick had a stellar diplomatic career that saw him serve as US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (2005-2008), US Ambassador to NATO (2001-2005) and US Ambassador to Greece (1997-2001). During this period, he also led key strategic negotiations with India, Israel and Iran.

Nick continues to be one of the leading analysts of US foreign policy and its relations with the Middle East, APAC, South Asia, Europe and Latin America. In a recent Op-Ed in the Boston Globe, he proposed 3 key pillars of an effective US engagement with China in the 21st Century:

“First, Obama and Kerry should commit to more frequent meetings with the new Chinese leadership. American leaders still spend far more time with their European and Middle Eastern counterparts than they do with Chinese leaders. Engaging China is not a panacea but is the only way to begin building greater confidence and trust. Personal ties often matter in international politics. Thus, early meetings with Xi Jinping are imperative.

Second, the United States can look for progress where our interests are congruent with China’s — from ensuring stability in Afghanistan after the drawdown of NATO forces to combating piracy in the Horn of Africa to rebuilding the global economy.

Third, China has resisted working closely with the United States on Iran. Obama and Kerry can’t hope for dramatic progress overnight, but they can signal that greater Chinese cooperation to convince Iran to negotiate seriously on its nuclear program will be an early test of US willingness to help China on issues vital to its own security.”

For more information, or to book Nicholas Burns as a keynote speaker for your conference or event, please contact Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Nick Burns and Lionel Barber on the long term outlook for Europe and the US

Ambassador Nick Burns, a former US Under Secretary of State and US Ambassador to NATO and now Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard‘s John F. Kennedy School of Government, is coming to the UK shortly, and I am looking forward to catching up with him. Nick is an astute observer of global affairs, and an American who has a profound understanding of how the rest of the world thinks and operates, and the changing world order which the US must manage and navigate. I enjoyed watching this discussion between Nick and the FT’s Editor Lionel Barber, discussing Europe and the US response to the unravelling crisis.

February in the Big Apple

I arrived in New York yesterday. As I queued at passport control I watched Nick Burns, Harvard Professor and International Relations guru commenting on the outlook for Egypt (“difficult”) and Syria (‘grim’). New York, scene of Sunday’s rumpus in the UN Security Council, when the Chinese and Russians vetoed a tepid resolution condemning Syria, still feels like the world’s centre. This morning’s news has been all been about (i) the Super Bowl (for non-Americans: the New York Giants won the final on Sunday and this morning were given a ticker tape parade and a heroes welcome in Manhattan) and (ii) the Republicans. As I ran around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (decommissioned) in Central Park this morning – the high rises reflecting gold morning light, a nip in the air, the promise of America everywhere – groups of middle aged women out fast walking discussed Romney versus Obama. I ran back to my hotel past Trump Towers and remembered Donald Trump’s fleeting campaign to win the Republican nomination (as he failed he fell back he pushed right wing notions that Obama is not actually a US citizen). This will surely be Romney’s (as predicted by our latest Research Note) but they say he has had to move to the right (eg. on immigration) to kill off Gingrich and Santorum, and that this will hurt him against Obama.

The nomination will surely be Romney’s, but the fight with Gingrich and Santorum has pulled him to the right on issues like immigration and this will make it more difficult for him to take the centre ground off Obama come the summer. Unless the economy goes backwards, or there is an unexpected catastrophe that can be laid at Obama’s door; I can’t (from where I’m sitting) see the President losing. Interestingly, Obama is relenting to pressure from Democrat Party leaders and is “signalling” to his supporters that he now wants them to make donations through Priorities USA Action, the leading Democrat ‘Super PAC’, a type of loosely regulated fundraising vehicle which can raise an unlimited amount of money. Is he taking the gloves off? His Chicago-based re-election machine is formidable. When it gets going I can’t see Romney finding traction.

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