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John D. Steinbruner: An Appreciation

Dr. John Steinbruner

To say that John Steinbruner always made time for colleagues and students would be an understatement. In all the years that we worked with John, we rarely saw him pass up an opportunity to engage in a spirited conversation about security policy, listening carefully to questions and different points of view, and challenging others to rethink the assumptions that lay beneath their analysis. Even in his last months and weeks, among John’s highest priorities were to finish teaching his course on civil conflict and to help the doctoral students he was advising to make progress toward their degrees. John’s commitment to students and colleagues was emblematic of his intellectual curiosity and the generosity of spirit that he displayed throughout his professional and personal life.

A professor of public policy at the School of Public Policy and director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) since 1999, John D. Steinbruner died from cancer on April 16, 2015.

From the start of his academic career, which included positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Yale University, John challenged the prevailing orthodoxy of national security policy and tried to show in practical detail how international security could be achieved with lower cost and risk through strategic restraint and mutual reassurance. Much of John’s early research drew from his work in cognitive psychology and argued that decisions about complex topics, such as nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons policies, reflected simple cognitive principles and organizational routines rather than the rational choices that they were assumed to represent. His book, The Cybernetic Theory of Decision (1974), remains a seminal contribution to the security policy field.

As the director of the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, a position he held from 1978 to 1996, John played a central role in U.S. efforts to cooperate with the Soviet Union and avoid open conventional and nuclear conflict, a topic about which he testified before the U.S. Congress and advised the government. In the 1980s, as a founding member (and later vice chair) of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), John participated in Track II dialogues between U.S. and Soviet arms control experts at a time when official channels were closed. He also helped foster a similar dialogue with Chinese scientists and security experts that contributed to China’s integration into a range of international security regimes.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, John led an ambitious effort to develop a new logic for close cooperation between the United States, Russia, and other key countries. Changing the core principles of security policy from confrontation and deterrence to cooperative prevention and reassurance was, John argued, the most effective and affordable way to reduce the costs and risks of force structures and operational practices left over from the Cold War and poorly suited to new security challenges.  His collaboration with Ashton Carter and William Perry, both future U.S. secretaries of defense, laid the conceptual foundations for U.S. cooperative threat reduction programs. John saw these programs as a step in the right direction, but spent much of the next two decades trying to show how much more could be accomplished through a more fundamental transformation of security relations.

When John moved to the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and became director of CISSM, he created the Advanced Methods of Cooperative Security Program to develop innovative cooperative approaches to spreading the benefits and reducing the risks associated with the global spread of powerful capabilities that can be used for both constructive and destructive purposes—including biological technology, space technology, nuclear technology, and information technology. He also participated in and led research initiatives focused on understanding the local dynamics of civil conflict and exploring the societal and political implications of climate change. He particularly enjoyed helping religious leaders think about moral issues raised by a wide range of global security problems, including the war in Iraq and continued reliance on thousands of nuclear weapons for deterrence decades after the Cold War ended. John was an adviser to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ International Policy Committee for two decades and worked closely with them until very recently to move forward a dialogue with senior Iranian clerics about religious beliefs and weapons of mass destruction.

John shared his depth and breadth of knowledge with School of Public Policy students in many ways. He developed three new courses that explored the formative experiences shaping current policy problems and focused on an explicitly international, rather than national, understanding of issues, building on research that had culminated in the publication of Principles of Global Security (2000). He also guided many doctoral students through the completion of their dissertations, which spanned his broad areas of interest. Under John’s leadership, CISSM also initiated a joint educational program between the School of Public Policy and the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of U.S. and Canada Studies, which has afforded nearly 100 Russian graduate students the chance to visit and study in College Park alongside School of Public Policy students. In recognition of his many achievements and contributions, John was awarded the university’s 2006 Landmark Award for exceptional long-term achievements in support of international life at the university. He also received the university’s Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Award in 2007.

John’s commitment to public service and global security extended far beyond the walls of the university. Since 2000, he served as the co-chair of the American Academy of Arts and Science’s Committee on International and Security Studies and as the chair of the Arms Control Association’s board of directors. He was also an active member of the board of directors of the Financial Services Volunteer Corps. Among his many other past commitments, he was a member of the Aspen Strategy group from 1980-2001, the Defense Policy Board from 1993-1997, the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict from 1995 to 1998, and Sandia National Laboratories’ Distinguished Advisory Group for Nonproliferation and Arms Control from 1994 to 2005.

Though John achieved much in his professional and academic life, he was humble and well-grounded. It was this quality that endeared him most to his colleagues and students. While he could be feisty and unyielding when discussing policy and politics, he was always respectful and gracious.

When John first fell ill, he took up writing fiction and penned The Secular Monastery (2011), a novel that presented his thinking about international security policy in a new format and to a new audience. John’s foray into fiction was representative of his belief in the power of persistence and of individuals joining together to work toward a greater good. It was also evidence of John’s own deep and abiding strength and humanity, his embrace of the power of friendship, loyalty, and love.

If you knew John, you probably already knew much of this about him, although he never ceased to surprise even his closest friends and colleagues. That is why his loss is so difficult to bear. For as much as John’s death is a loss for the School of Public Policy and the security policy community, of which he was a leading light, it is also a loss on a much more personal level. It is the loss of an extraordinary teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend.

This tribute was penned by Nancy Gallagher, Steve Fetter, I.M. “Mac” Destler, and Jonas Siegel. We encourage you to share your thoughts and memories of John below as he impacted so many and will be greatly missed.

[A video of John Steinbruner's memorial service can be viewed here.]


To many associated with the Belfer Center, John was a friend, colleague, and occasional collaborator. He was also an alumnus of the Center. From 1973-1976, while an Associate Professor at the Kennedy School, he served as Assistant Director on the founding directing staff of what was then called the Program for Science and International Affairs. Subsequently, John was for nearly twenty years the head of the Foreign Policy Studies Program at The Brookings Institution. Since 1996 he has been Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and also Director of Maryland’s Center for International Security Studies.John Steinbruner combined high intelligence and unfailing thoughtfulness with unusual kindness and decency. He made large contributions to our field through his prolific writings and his wide array of professional involvements. He was a gifted teacher and was treasured by those who worked with him. He is an exemplar of the kind of alumni that we at the Belfer Center hope to produce. His passing is a loss for us all.

John is dearly missed, but his talent, conviction, and courageous effort towards peace will be continued. He was an ideal policy expert, calm, wise, affectionate for people, and steadfast in trying to make our world a better place.

John Steinbruner, who died on April 16 after a decade-long battle against cancer, was one of the greatest and most important Brookings scholars in the century-long history of our institution. We were both lucky enough to work for and with John here at Brookings, and were immeasurably helped, inspired, and taught by him over the years.John was an academic superstar from his earliest days. He wrote a Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation and book on the “cybernetic theory” of decision-making that remains a lodestar in the field. With a track record of scholarly brilliance, as well as a personality that was both gentle and driven, he was a natural choice to lead the Foreign Policy program at Brookings even before reaching the age of 40. He ran the program from 1978 through 1996 and created the foundation upon which it has operated ever since. He was—literally—the father of the modern Brookings foreign policy tradition of rigorous scholarship in the service of public policy. The pantheon of greats who worked and wrote under his guidance here includes some of the most impressive names in the history of American public policy research—Bill Kaufmann, Harry Harding, Raymond Garthoff, Bill Quandt, and Bruce Blair, to name just a few. And while John’s academic credentials were second to none, his motivations were fundamentally about public policy—about making the world a better place.The context for most of John’s work, and the concern that drove much of his passion for foreign policy research and writing, was the Cold War, along with its attendant grave dangers. He was riveted by the importance of the nuclear arms control agenda, the promotion of U.S.-Soviet détente, and the mitigation of violence that the Cold War produced or exacerbated around the world. The scholarly pursuits that he championed focused on military policy and defense budgeting and arms control, the resolution of civil warfare, and savvy analysis of the challenges faced in many specific regions of the world from East Asia to the Middle East to Latin America and Africa. In his later years, he also delved deeply into issues of climate change and their links to security challenges.Perhaps the most important lesson that John both imparted and embodied—which is also an essential underpinning of Brookings’ unique role among think tanks—was to think beyond established disciplinary and political boundaries and time frames. He surely did that in his own work. And it is not surprising that one of us ended up involved in the effort to challenge standard economic metrics with those that include broader dimensions of human well-being and psychological elements of decision-making (which John was, of course, completely enthusiastic about!).John willfully passed on his passion, intellectual rigor, and sincerity about the role of public policy to the next generation. At University of Maryland, John was a dedicated and inspiring teacher, as is evidenced in his many current and graduated doctoral students. His dedication to that effort was embodied in many forms, perhaps best in the last months by his spending his few remaining healthy hours in the class room—literally arranging the timing of his medical treatments so that he could teach his weekly seminar.John was a rare gem, among the most dignified and nobly-minded and kind persons that either of us has ever encountered, professionally, and personally. No one combined the twin traits of academic rigor with human and humanitarian passion better than he did. He was one of the smartest people we ever knew, and, more importantly, one of the best. Not only will he be missed by us, but the world has lost someone truly irreplaceable. He will live on, however, in his work, through his family, friends, colleagues, and students, and through the standards of excellence that he promoted both at Brookings and at the University of Maryland.

John Steinbruner invited me to meet with him at his house a couple of weeks ago. After a short chat, I left with a pretty clear sense he was nearing his end. And yet his mind was as sharp as always, even if his speech couldn't keep up.John was the kind of scholar who had such intellectual clarity that he could articulate your arguments better than you could. And if he disagreed with you, he could improve your argument for you, show you where the flaws are, and leave you grateful for the correction. He was the kind of adviser who would give you enough rope to hang yourself with (let you pursue your hypotheses and data down some crazy intellectual paths) but step in just in time so the hanging never happened (help you articulate the crazy in a way that was far more interesting than you yourself had realized).He was the kind of professor who would teach you, 12 years ago, that in the future an important strategic concern will be the widespread availability of [insert the technical term for "tiny flying robot assassin swarms"] and you'd dismiss that idea as a crazy faraway fantasy - only to realize within a decade that, not only is the United States already killing hundreds of people with flying robot assassins ("drones") in foreign wars, but that drones in general are getting smaller and cheaper and increasingly accessible. He was right - a phrase I've heard myself utter more than once in the past decade.The main questions that have motivated my postdoctoral career emerged in my mind during David Crocker's democracy and democratization class. But the main hypotheses I've pursued as potential answers to those questions have been inspired pretty directly from John's teaching on the sources of civil violence and his emphasis on local and emergent dynamics. His own dissertation, The Cybernetic Theory of Decision, anticipated by decades the direction that research in political science and economics would one day take, and the mainstream of those fields are only now beginning to catch up to the ideas and policies implied in the work a twenty-something John Steinbruner did before I was even able to read.He was also, it should be noted, an exceedingly kind man, who will be remembered fondly by many colleagues and several generations of students, including me. I don't think I ever thanked him directly. But he wasn't the kind of person who needed to hear it. He knew.

Less than two weeks ago, John signed my dissertation examination report, allowing me to submit my dissertation and finally graduate in May, 2015. I had submitted my revised dissertation to John a month earlier and was under the impression that considering his poor health, John would suffice to simply taking a look at my revisions and make sure that my revised dissertation incorporates all the additions and revisions that my committee had requested. But I was wrong. John was not that kind of a person. He had decided to read my entire 500 page dissertation all over again.While he was re-reading my dissertation, I started to write the acknowledgement section of my dissertation. In it, I thanked John, all in present tenses, for his support, guidance, and for not giving up on me. When I heard the news of his passing, I was just about to submit my dissertation. I naturally thought that I should revise the acknowledgement section to reflect John’s passing. I changed all present tenses to past and I added couple of sentences to his memory. But when I read my revised acknowledgement section aloud, it did not sound right and I was certainly not satisfied. I could not use past tenses when talking about John. I cried, as if I had lost my father. I decided to undo all my revisions and again use present tenses to talk about John. Indeed, while he is no longer physically present among us, he lives through his work and the passion he has instilled in all of us who have known and worked with him.The picture of him used in this page, is the picture I took from him about a year ago using my iphone. We were in Iran, on top of Mount Alborz, looking down at the city of Tehran. Although he was ill, he arranged his medical treatments so that he could travel to Iran and do what he thought was necessary to make the world a better place.Nancy, Carol, Bob, and Amir have already talked about how smart, inspiring, and compassionate John was. His wisdom, foresight, and, above all, perseverance was unparalleled. He has made a lasting impression on all of us and while he will certainly be missed, he will never be forgotten. اللهم انا لا نعلم منه الا خيرا وانت اعلم به منا فاغفر له"Oh God, we know nothing but good about him and you know him better than we did. So forgive and bless him"

In any faculty meeting, no matter the issue, I always waited most avidly to hear the opinion of two colleagues, Thomas Schelling and John Steinbruner.

For every Russian student who had a chance to participate in CISSM-ISKRAN joint program, Professor Steinbruner was the first person to introduce us into American academic security community.  In 2003 while being in Moscow he agreed to grade a surprise exam on international security course in ISKRAN. So a few undergraduate students and I had to study all night in order to demonstrate our knowledge to American professors the next morning. The night was full of suspense because none of us had ever talked with American professor before. And our Russian professor, dr. Sergey Rogov at that time seemed to us probably the scariest person on earth.  When we took the exam with professor Steinbruner we realized that he was not interested in grading us per se, rather then listening to our opinion, discussing the problems of international security and trying to focus our understanding on the issues that really matter. That kind of attitude is quite rare and very much appreciated not only in classrooms.Working with professor Steinbruner was one of the most exciting experiences in my career. Everyone in ISKRAN knew about professor Steinbruner, even those who never met him. Professor Steinbruner will be remembered in ISKRAN as one of our closest friends, a person of unique decency, honesty and kindness.

I don't normally use this column to write obituaries, but John Steinbruner -- my friend and mentor -- died last week after a long battle with cancer. It occurs to me that no one has had a bigger impact on how I think about nuclear weapons and strategic stability. Most of what I write consists of ideas that I’ve stolen from John, dressed up with some off-color jokes.John was a giant, even if perhaps he’s not as well known as his contemporaries. There are a couple of reasons for that, some understandable and others less so. But I wanted to share with readers how I think about John’s work and what I think it says about the risk of nuclear war.Read more:http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/20/the-mind-and-milieu-of-john-steinbruner-nuclear-weapons-strategy/

If it wasn't for Professor Steinbruner's course on international security I would never discover  the most important facet of the subject - international relations are formed and developed by humans, it is all about human lives, minds and hopes and one should never forget about that in the midst of counting missiles and nuclear warheads. Professor was a genuine believer in better future for the United States and Russia's relations and was one of the few who actually greatly contributed to that  - letting more Russian students come to America is way more valuable than hundreds of rounds of negotiations between all the same politicians. Being in his classroom was an honor and a unique chance to have the most exciting and difficult conversations I had ever had. I am so grateful to Professor for all he has done to my fellows and me. His kindness and wisdom are rare and will never be forgotten.

I have been extremely distressed to learn about the passing away of Professor John Steinbruner! I understand what a serious loss it is to all of us! I know that no word can heal the wound but it is the destiny which is unfortunately not in our hands.I have had the honor of meeting John personally in 2003. Professor Steinbruner and I have shared twelve years of working together on CISSM-ISKRAN collaborative educational project and I can say that he always had a welcome, constructive, professional word of advice. I especially appreciated all John did to help this collaborative educational project to be successful! John was a rare and great personality, good professional and extraordinary expert of American-Russian relations and Arms control. He was a souse of strength and inspiration to me personally (since I know how hard it is to get through all of these medical treatments) and to many of my colleagues at ISKRAN and the students of the School of World Politics and International Security.Of course, the gap left behind by John’s passing away is difficult to be filed, but I am sure that he will live forever in his books, articles, policy papers, lectures, students and his work will go a long way in benefiting the future generations!Once again, I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to John’s family and colleagues for this big loss. I will always remember John Steinbruner and will be always grateful to him for all he did to me and to ISKRAN. --Svetlana Babich, Deputy Director, Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ISKRAN)

Studying the course of Professor John Steinbruner at CISSM as a visiting student from ISKRAN I highly appreciated his wide erudition, proficiency in the matters of international security and high quality of discussions during his classes.  Also I should note a friendly and free atmosphere of the classes and Professor's approach, in which lectures and seminars (theory and practice) are actually a single whole within the frames of the discussed issue. His course on international security policy gave me an opportunity to gain the new experience and allowed me to move up to a higher level of understanding of the issues interrelationship in the world politics.  He was the person who really believed in the stable and reliable future of the Russian-American relations and has done much from his side to promote a constructive dialogue between the students of both countries. Communication with Professor Steinbruner left a deep imprint in my heart and kind memories about him. 

When I think of Professor Steinbruner, I always imagine him in the classroom, where he belonged, with his clicker in his hand, standing up as he never liked to sit down in front of the students. I remember how he would not just teach his students, but he would be a mentor to guide their thinking on fundamental international security issues that their generation would have to face. During class discussion, he would always have big, eye-opening questions that never had easy answers, but he would make everyone contribute and only then by his foresight, he would awaken their minds that hasty judgements on critical security issues could have drastic implications and global consequences.This image of him is vivid on my mind, because I had the privilege of being his teaching assistant for the last two years. Each time I listened to his lectures, I learned something new that I wasn't able to fully capture earlier in his sophisticated thinking. Even during the most difficult times, I witnessed firsthand how he dedicated his life to his mission as a professor, a great thinker, and a security scholar. Nothing could come between him and the university, even if it meant coming to class from the hospital. This meant more than just respect for his profession; it showed how he truly spent his life for the embetterment of others. His humility about his contributions to the international security policy field made all of us appreciate even further how lucky we were to be his students and to be guided by his vision.His wisdom and big heart will always be missed.

This comment has been extremely difficult for me to write. I have begun at least half a dozen times only to stop, close the lid to my notebook and push it off later. John's exceptional intellect has been captured by a number of people that knew him much better than I did, however, John's contributions to this world were not only in the international security arena. On at least two occasions John lent a sympathetic ear to the problems I was facing giving me enough strength to press forward in what seemed overwhelming conditions.The first time was not intended to happen. I have suffered from a debilitating physical disease for most of my adult life, which most days does not bother me, but for whatever reason one day manifested itself in the middle of a discussion with John. While many of John's position would have tried to hurry me out of the appointment, he opened up with his own struggles. While just a moment in time, John's humanity left me emboldened not only to accept the the physical challenges I was facing, but to use it as a means of pushing on, ever forward.The second time John engaged in a intervention was during my comprehensive field examination, I had written a exam that was good enough, but well below what I was capable of completing. John called me in for a discussion, which I assumed was to be used as a scolding session. However, John knew something else was afoot. What he and frankly no one else knew at the time, was that I was going through a very difficult personal problem that had left me utterly devastated. John, the ever present gentleman, coaxed it out of me and gave me what may have been the greatest pep talk in my life.     Of course John taught me how to look at the world differently, and he exposed me to concepts that were completely foreign, but his humanity is what I will miss the most. 

When I first met John about a quarter century ago, I was already familiar with his excellent scholarship--which he managed to maintain even as he courageously fought his relentless illness--but what struck me most about him was his love of humanity and unfazed optimism about the goodness of people.  He was above all an extraordinary human being who brought the best out of those who had the pleasure to know him. He touched my life in wonderful ways.  Twenty years ago, John invited me to be a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution when he was director of foreign policy and I was associate professor at Cornell, which I happily accepted, (and maintained an affiliation with Brookings ever since). While at Brookings, my wife was in the hospital with a tough pregnancy and I was alone with our two-year old daughter. John cooked homemade meals for us and brought them to our home! I was forever touched. As director of foreign policy at Brookings, John was amazing in other ways. He valued intellectual contributions and bet on them even if there was no obvious immediate policy angle; he gave considerable leeway to scholars to be creative, while tolerating, even encouraging, diversity of views—and styles; one of the senior fellows at the time was known to go around Brookings barefooted! But above all, John saw his role as maximally defending scholars from the pressure of funding to allow researchers to do their work as they saw fit. At Maryland, John was a wonderful colleague with whom I shared much—including students. At the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, we have been collaborating on a committee for years. His energy in the face of his health challenges was infectious. Everyone who knew him well can attest to his character, his eternal optimism about humanity, and his deep caring for those who are less privileged. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to know him--and to let him know during his last weeks how I felt, including in the recording I left for him just before he departed this world. John always bet on the goodness of people because, at the core, he was as good as they come. 

I feel very lucky to have had John Steinbruner as both a professor and a dissertation advisor - he was always thoughtful, insightful, and supportive. Both in a classroom setting and in one-on-one discussions, he was always working to get students to think through important issues and make connections and conclusions on their own - something I now strive for in my own teaching. I remember going home multiple times after discussions in his class on international security and engaging my husband hours-long discussion on the issues raised. He was wonderful at getting students interested and engaged.John was also an excellent advisor. In addition to being generally supportive and positive, he always seemed to have great insight into the key issues at hand, providing helpful and insightful feedback. As an earlier commenter stated, "John was the kind of scholar who had such intellectual clarity that he could articulate your arguments better than you could." That's certainly how I felt on numerous occassions. He will certainly be missed. 

As a student at Maryland’s security program and having worked at Center for International Security Studies at Maryland, I had the privilege of getting to know Professor Steinbruner as a teacher, a leader, and a colleague. Whether it was through the courses he taught or designed, his writing, or his leadership of Maryland’s security program, Professor Steinbruner had an enormous impact on my life and the way I think about the world around me.Through his courses, I developed a broader understanding of security issues, including the responsibility of nations to hold each other responsible for the well being of citizens. His lessons, at their heart, were grounded in responsibility: the responsibility of nations; the responsibility of political leaders; and the personal responsibility that all of us in the policy world have to find the best solutions to the world’s problems. The policy prescriptions he advocated demonstrated courage he had to push for what was best for international security, not what was politically expedient.Professor Steinbruner deserves credit for giving hundreds, if not thousands, of students the opportunity and the skills in which to succeed. While I was a student, he supported giving me an opportunity to help CISSM with its research on nuclear weapons policy. I learned as much through this work as I did in the classroom during my time at Maryland. It was this work that helped me get a job after I graduated. He was always willing to provide me with useful advice on a range of topics when I needed it.  While Professor Steinbruner may no longer be with us, his legacy can be seen in many places. It can be seen in the attitudes of his colleagues, the passion and commitment he instilled within his students, and the institutions he has helped to build. It can be seen in the staff of CISSM, a brilliant group of talented academics that are truly committed to supporting their students and making the world a better place.

I had the privilege of watching and learning from John for the past 8 years. He has had a tremendous impact on my career and thought process.John is unique among scholars, assimilating complex thoughts into a simple framework. In all my years of being an analyst, I have never seen anyone else understand the multiple aspects of international security better than him. He seamlessly articulates the connections between climate change, politics, economics, development and security: a trait I try hard to mimic.However, John's brilliance is not all what I have come most to admire and emulate. He is a wonderful and compassionate human-being. In my years of scholarship spread across India, Europe and the US, I have never seen anyone else treat their students with as much respect as John does. I distinctly remember once John stopping right in the middle of an extremely interesting discussion at the end of class to make sure none of his students had their schedules interrupted.  Others would have taken the discussion to an conclusion even if the class extend by a few minutes. I have personally experienced John willingness to provide unlimited time and guidance to his students. I am grateful to have had the chance to know him.

This is what stays with me. That who I am and what I think mattered to John, and that he wanted to help me, as well as my fellow students and colleagues, make an impact for good in the world.  To be at my best - whether physical, emotional, intellectually or spiritually - and to my best.   I came to Maryland's School of Public Policy and CISSM as an older student with a well established career in examining issues of nuclear nonproliferation and international security from a technical perpsective.  I had a choice to make here - pursue my PhD going down a familiar path of major power politics and nuclear balancing or to chart new - and messy  - intellectual territory civil conflict dynamics.  My passion was for the latter, but was having difficulty getting traction wtih the seriousness of the issues among more traditional international security experts.  John knew different and opened wide the intellectual space to argue how these complex issues mattered not just for humanitarian concerns but for vital national and international security interests. As others have said, John would pose incredibly difficult questions and then listen intensely to responses adn ulitmately tie complex threads together into simple and cogent policy arguments. He posed one such question to me on my comprehensive exam, "When intervening in civil conflict, how much capacity is necessary?"     Open-ended, broad, much room for exploring the nuances that must be considered.   Salient.   Challenging.   As I wrote my exam, I discovered the thesis I wanted to explore - indeed what I would like to spend the rest of my career addressing.   As I have continued down this path of research, I discovered he began asking that question back at Brookings many years ago to other students at the time - at least one of whom has paid an extraordinary tribute to him by going on to establish a remarkable career addressing just this question. I had hoped to finish out my dissertation under John's guidance.  The last time we talked in January, he was excited to see some data analysis I had done which suggested "interesting and important' results.  That was the ultimate you wanted to hear from John - that your ideas or research could be 'interesting and important'.  Then he would gently nudged you in certain directions to make the ideas sharp and clear so that you could have impact with the results.  I won't have him here in person to bring that clarity.  But he will be present at every moment as I finish out my research, write and defend my dissertation, and indeed, as I live out the rest of my career.   John changed my life and will be part of all that I do professionally for many years to come.  

On behalf of the students of School of World Politics and International Security at the Institute of the US and Canadian Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences (ISKRAN) we would like to convey our condolences to the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) in connection with the death of John D. Steinbruner, professor and a good friend of Russian Academic community. Thanks to Dr. Steinbruner it was possible to achieve peer exchanges of young experts interested in Russian-American relations. With the constant support and direct involvement in the process, Professor Steinbruner made it possible for dozens of young Russian experts to explore the United States and gain first-hand experience of working together on joint projects devoted to crucial topics in Russian-American relations. We would like to reassure Dr. Steinbruner's colleagues and relatives that we enormously appreciate his contribution to better understanding between our nations and we are deeply saddened by this loss.Professor Steinbruner's devotion to his work and his outstanding bright mind made every discussion with him an unforgettable experience. But, what's even more important, he always created an atmosphere of trust among his students. John Steinbruner convinced generations of students that Russians and Americans are able to build their relations based on friendship and cooperation. And we are glad we had a chance to get to know Dr. Steinbruner personally and had an honour to be invited by him at Maryland University. Students of School of World Politics and International Security at the Institute of the US and Canadian Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences

On November 11, 1991, David Hamburg, then president of the Carnegie Corporation, called three academics to a closed-door meeting in New York to discuss the worsening security situation in the Soviet Union. Two would go on to become Secretaries of Defense—William Perry and Ashton Carter. The third, John Steinbruner, would eschew politics in favor of academia, yet over a career his contributions to American and global security would be no less profound.As the world celebrated the end of the Cold War, these four men lamented the emergence of a heretofore unimagined threat to global security—one based not upon Soviet strength, but upon the weakness of states emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Together, they would go on to help build a coalition of experts, officials and political leaders to construct what many consider to be the most successful national security initiative in history: the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. For pennies on the US defense dollar, the program has helped keep America and the world secure from the threat of loose nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction for a quarter century.The effort was built upon Steinbruner’s conviction that forging cooperative responses to the next generation of international security threats—weapons proliferation, the spread of disease, climate change—was not a matter of choice, but a new strategic imperative. With John’s leadership and the generous support of Carnegie and the MacArthur Foundation, experts from Brookings, Harvard and Stanford engaged in pioneering studies to articulate new principles for the 21st Century. For many Cold Warriors whose careers were organized around the principles of deterrence and containment, notions of “cooperative security” were derided and dismissed as Pollyanish. Yet two decades later, it is difficult to imagine a solution to an international security dilemma where we still believe American might alone can compel enduring solutions.John Steinbruner passed away on April 16th, 2015. But his legacy transcends the immediate national security successes his intellect and tenacity yielded for humanity. His legacy built a gold standard for the modern think tank that today remains far too elusive. As Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution for almost two decades, Steinbruner inspired rigorous multidisciplinary scholarship focused on over-the-horizon policy challenges—an organization based not upon rapid reaction to the news cycle, on the trite repackaging of facts, or as a holding pen for would-be government officials. Rather, he defined the think tank as an entity that exists for the very purpose of public service—for the betterment of society by building enduring solutions to over-the-horizon threats. To many, he was a brilliant mentor, a nurturing leader, and an honorable teacher. For think tanks in Washington and around the globe, his enduring gift to us is a high bar of integrity and far-sighted innovation.In eulogizing his brother Robert in 1968, Edward Kennedy invoked these words that a half century later may equally describe the enduring contribution to humanity made by John Steinbruner. Senator Kennedy said, “[He] need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, but to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

At the 2015 Spring Arms Control Association, School of Public Policy Prof. Catherine Kelleher couched her remarks about U.S.-Russian relations as a tribute to Prof. John D. Steinbruner. View her remarks.

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