William Burns

1 minute read
By Walter Isaacson

With his ever wary eyes, genial half smile, and Achesonian mustache, CIA Director William Burns exudes a combi­nation of confidence and humility that makes him seem, as indeed he is, a throwback to an era when discreet statesmen advised Presidents of both parties and served as special envoys handling delicate diplomatic missions. Not only smart but wise, he is trusted as an honest broker by allies and adversaries, including Russia, where he served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador, and Iran, helping to negotiate a nuclear agreement under President Barack Obama. For President Joe Biden, Burns undertook a back-­channel mission to Moscow to try to avert the Ukraine war and has made multiple trips to Kyiv to search for ways to end it. More recently, he has led the efforts to achieve a hostage release and a cease-fire in Gaza.

Isaacson, a former managing editor of TIME, is the co-author of The Wise Men

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