In Remembrance of Ambassador Roland Timerbaev

August 21, 2019
William Potter

Ambassador Roland Timerbaev

Ambassador Roland Timerbaev

It is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of a giant in the field of nonproliferation diplomacy—Ambassador Roland Mikhailovich Timerbaev.

Roland was a remarkable individual in many respects. He was the consummate diplomat, who understood the importance of personal relations in overcoming seemingly intractable obstacles. He once told me that he collected friends the way other people collected art and other valuable objects. He had no interest in worldly possessions, but was deeply committed to promoting a world in which people could live without the specter of nuclear war and nuclear weapons.

He also was committed to training the next generation of nonproliferation specialists in his country and throughout the world. I had the honor of working with him in pursuit of that objective for three years in Monterey after he left his post as the last Soviet ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Roland had been a very senior diplomat, but he was as interested in his students as in any foreign dignitary. I vividly recall entering his office shortly after he arrived in Monterey to find him seated casually on the floor engaged in conversation with a young graduate student—a pose he assumed was the way professors typically interacted with their mentees in laid back California.

One of the great privileges I enjoyed during Roland’s residence at CNS was being present during many of his discussions with his fellow NPT negotiator and great friend Ambassador George Bunn. They would carry on for hours discussing past and present nuclear challenges in a fashion in which their nationalities were always subordinate to their humanity.

Roland Mikhailovich Timerbaev was one of a kind. He cannot be replaced, but the world is desperately in need of more individuals with his wisdom, decency, and dedication. He will be sorely missed by his many friends, students, and colleagues in Russia, the United States, and throughout the world.

Ambassador Roland Timerbaev with a gathering of friends

A gathering of friends

At a Russian Foreign Ministry celebration of Amb. Timerbaev's 90th birthday

At a Russian Foreign Ministry celebration of Amb. Timerbaev’s 90th birthday

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