William Burns’s reputation as a veteran top government official who is widely respected in the US, and knows Israel well, has raised his value within the Biden administration.
William Burns has spent his life studying Russia and Vladimir Putin. He has had outsized influence on US policy with Moscow for the last several months, with US President Joe Biden’s ear on all key predictions and decisions. As CIA chief, Burns has convinced Biden to declassify an unprecedented amount of intelligence to try to help Ukraine and embarrass and deter Russia from its invasion, and later, from continuing the fight. In mid-September, he did a semi-victory dance, declaring Putin’s invasion a “failure.” Things have come a long way since Biden made his first major speech before the US intelligence community in July 2021. That speech was on US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s turf, and Biden publicly acknowledged her contributions, as opposed to Burns. Some of that had more to do with internal US strategy than about the place of the CIA in foreign policy.