“The fate of Ukraine determines the future of Europe and the Russian Federation.” Profile of the new head of the CIA
On January 11, US President-elect Joe Biden announced that former Ambassador to Russia William Burns, a 30-year diplomat who served under five presidents and 10 secretaries of state, will become the head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Both Republicans and Democrats.
Journalists call Burns “the US secret weapon” for his experience and consistent service to the state. If appointed, he will go down in history as the first career diplomat to head the CIA. Who is the future head of one of the most important US intelligence agencies – profile LIGA.net adapted from WSJ, NYT, The Atlantic, WP, and Bloomberg.
EDUCATION AND CAREER
Burns was born on April 4, 1956, in North Carolina. In 1978 he received his BA in History from Philadelphia, continuing his studies at Oxford, where he became a Ph.D. Burns’s teachers call him “the perfect excellent student.”
In 1982, he became a diplomat, mainly dealing with the Middle East, which he became interested in at the university: he worked at the US Embassy in Jordan, in the State Department’s Bureau for the Middle East, in the political planning department of the State Department, was assistant to the senior director for the Middle East and South Asia in National Security Council and Counselor at the US Embassy in Moscow.
From 2001 to 2005 he was Deputy Secretary of State for the Middle East. Then Burns and a number of high-ranking CIA officials met with the ex-head of Libyan intelligence Mussa Kussa, and managed to convince Libya to abandon the program of developing weapons of mass destruction. In 2002, Burns warned that an invasion of Iraq would cause unrest and destruction of the country, which would play in Iran’s favor. However, he did not speak out against the invasion in 2003, and now calls it “the biggest professional regret.”
In 2005, Burns was appointed US Ambassador to Moscow, where he served until 2008. During this time, he managed to attend a wedding organized by Ramzan Kadyrov and talk to Solzhenitsyn a few months before his death, which became known thanks to the leak of confidential diplomatic data in 2010.
“Ramzan danced awkwardly with a golden machine gun sticking out from the back of his jeans … After dancing and a quick walk around the premises, Ramzan and his army left,” Burns wrote in a telegram.
At the same time, he warned about the build-up of Russia’s military potential and bluntly stated that the Russian army was involved in various conflicts, in particular, “to engage in lucrative activities unrelated to official military tasks.” In 2008, Burns expressed the opinion in diplomatic correspondence that the possibility of Ukraine’s admission to NATO would affect Russia’s interests, which raises “serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region.”
Recalling his first meeting with Putin, Burns said that he is “not the most intimidating man in the world (meaning his height – ed.), But behaves confidently”: “He told me:” You Americans should listen more – you are not you can just do everything your own way … He was not sophisticated, he was provocative, but he was quite straightforward. ”
IN THE OBAMA TEAM
Burns was transferred to the State Department in 2008, where until 2011 he was the deputy secretary of state for political affairs, and then the former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made him her deputy. “He personifies the very best in the diplomatic service and is an example of loyalty to our country,” she said.
In the 44th President Barack Obama’s team, Burns led the US delegation as a “secret emissary” in secret negotiations with Iran that culminated in a 2015 agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting tough economic sanctions. Trump backed out of the deal in 2018, and Burns could play a pivotal role in resuming talks with Iran.
In 2013, a columnist for The Atlantic called Burns “the US’s secret weapon,” implying that he knew how to “bridge” the distance “between Washington and capitals around the world.” Both Republicans and Democrats speak of him extremely flatteringly, describing him as a person “balanced, calm and clearly understands what he wants to achieve.”
Burns came to Kiev in February 2014, immediately after the shooting of protesters on the Maidan. He expressed “deep admiration for the courage and determination of the Ukrainians who resisted the tragic violence.”
TRUMP’S POLICY CRITIC
In 2014, Burns retired and became President of the International Research Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In August 2020, he wrote a prophetic article about the US presidential election, in which he said that if he was defeated, Trump would not “accept the traditional commitment to the transition,” but would represent the election as rigged, try to challenge or undermine the outcome: “The cost of confusion, ambiguous signals and bureaucratic unrest can be very high. ”
According to Burns, the Trump era is “a long quarantine of common sense and competence in American foreign policy.” In 2019, he criticized him for the mistreatment of the US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was fired for “interfering with plans to attract foreign interference in the American elections (she refused to pressure Ukraine in the Biden case – ed.)”.
“This is an example of Trump’s dangerous diplomatic negligence. This is the diplomacy of narcissism, aimed at promoting private interests at the expense of national interests,” he wrote.
WHAT DOES ITS NOMINATION MEAN?
Burns and Biden have known each other for a long time: they worked together not only in the Obama administration, but also during the period when Biden headed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Burns worked with his national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Biden nominates him as a career diplomat with extensive experience dealing with the traditional threats to the United States – Russia and Iran. Biden’s choice suggests that the United States will focus on fighting against them.
The fate of Ukraine is critical to the future of Europe and Russia, – said William Burns
The experience of working in Russia and negotiations with Iran, as well as deep knowledge about these countries, will be useful to him in his new position, because Russia’s interference in the American elections and the threat posed by Tehran are one of the main challenges facing the US national security today. “He demonstrates very strong analytical skills and a keen understanding of our adversary, Russia,” says former senior diplomat Nicholas Burns.
In 2017, Burns wrote a column entitled “How we deceive ourselves about Russia,” in which he stated that relations between the United States and the Russian Federation will remain “competitive and hostile” due to “a fundamental divergence of views and each other’s role in the world.”
He outlined three main steps the US should take against Russia: first, to continue Obama’s tough policy against the Kremlin for meddling in elections; second, to reassure Europe of absolute commitment to NATO; third, to focus on Ukraine, “whose fate is critical to the future of Europe and Russia,” meaning helping Kiev build a successful political system that Russia is seeking to destroy.
Biden’s nomination is encouraging for CIA officials for several reasons: first, Burns has worked with US agents throughout his career; second, he has established himself as a civil servant, free from political interference, and this is exactly what the intelligence, politicized during the Trump presidency, needs; third, he is known and respected in Washington by both parties, which can help the CIA.