Status: Open

Amb. Roland Timerbaev Passes Away At 91

August 21, 2019

MOSCOW, AUGUST 21, 2019. PIR PRESS – Amb. Roland Timerbaev Passes Away at 91.

Amb. Roland Timerbaev – a luminary in the field of nonproliferation, an undisputed authority, a great teacher and mentor – has passed away.

It will take a long time for us all to get used to the idea that we now have to plan our work, conceive new projects, and prepare for events great and small without his invaluable input and advice. Pursuing nonproliferation research and furthering the nonproliferation cause without Amb. Timerbayev, who knew and understood that cause like no-one else, and whose judgment was always the main criterion and the ultimate praise for us, will be hard.

Amb. Timerbaev had been with PIR Center ever since its foundation. In 1994-2010 he was the chairman of the PIR Center Executive Board. Until his passing, he remained a member of our Advisory Board, a regular contributor of the Yaderny Kontrol and Security Index journals, and a leading lecturer at our summer schools and university courses. He delivered one of his final lectures for a dual-degree nonproliferation program at MGIMO university in October 2017. He was in fact the father of the idea that Russia should have a nongovernmental center specializing in nonproliferation. It was a great fortune for all of us that being one of the founding fathers of the NPT, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, professor, and a great scholar, Amb. Timerbaev chose not to retire after the end of his diplomatic service in 1992, but to devote himself to teaching and research. He has left behind dozens of articles, several books, numerous interviews, and a great treasure trove of knowledge and ideas that still remains with us, and that will continue to teach and inspire us.

“The NPT is the foundation of life. It is the most important international treaty of our times. There is simply no other treaty more important than the NPT. We should keep it alive with all our strength; without it, we are all lost. We need to speak more of the NPT, so than everyone knows about it.” Busy as we are with our routine, all of us – official and public diplomats, lecturers, experts and journalists – must never forget the most important thing, the main purpose of our work. Without Amb. Timerbaev, it will be much more difficult, but it must be done.

All of us will always treasure the recollections of our time with that extraordinary man, his great personal warmth, and his wise words of counsel.

The PIR Center team would like to express our sincere condolences to Amb. Timerbayev’s family, colleagues and friends.


In Remembrance of 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.

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

Dr. William Potter

James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies


Roland Timerbaev, who passed away in mid-August at the age of 91, was a true giant—both as an arms controller and as a human being. I doubt we will see his like again.

From the 1950s, after a brief stint at the fledgling United Nations, Timerbaev was directly supporting Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko on nuclear weapons issues. (He remembered drafting the first Soviet proposal for a fissile material cutoff treaty in 1958.)  Preventing nuclear annihilation became his consuming, life-long passion. He retired from the Foreign Ministry just as the Soviet Union was collapsing, resigning as permanent representative to the international organizations in Vienna, including, of course, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

He is best known for his key role in negotiating the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, where he first met my father, George Bunn, who served on the U.S. delegation. As Timerbaev remembered, while neither of them were the heads of their respective delegations, they were often the “day-to-day negotiators” of the treaty, assigned to find ways to overcome the blockages that arose.1 It was Timerbaev and his colleague Vladimir Shustov, with Bunn and the U.S. delegate Culver Gleysteen, who broke the impasse on the safeguards article during a hike in the mountains near Geneva, even though both sides had been instructed not to compromise.2

Working together on the NPT, Timerbaev and my father built a close friendship and professional partnership that lasted the rest of their lives; in a letter for a Stanford celebration of my father’s career in 2004, Timerbaev wrote that their friendship and cooperation had been “the most rewarding [professional] thing I have ever experienced.”

The NPT was by no means the end of Timerbaev’s nonproliferation work. He played a key role in launching the Nuclear Suppliers Group, working through the night with British ambassador John Thomson (later the founding chairman) in early 1975—with the assistance of a good dinner and some whiskey back in the hotel room—in negotiating the documents that announced the initiative. He made major contributions to IAEA safeguards, to the negotiation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and to many other key nuclear accords.

After leaving the Foreign Ministry, Timerbaev spent several years at what is now the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, teaching, writing, and launching a variety of policy initiatives. He was particularly proud of having brought most of the members of the Ukrainian parliament to Monterey for nonproliferation training before the crucial vote that confirmed Ukraine’s non-nuclear-weapon status.

Working with Vladimir Orlov, Timerbaev then launched the PIR Center in Moscow, one of the most important nongovernmental nonproliferation organizations in Russia. He was an encouraging and tireless teacher and mentor, training generations of Russian and global nonproliferation experts. He was also an indefatigable writer; in particular, his history, Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation, 1945–1968, became a standard Russian text.

Beyond all these accomplishments, Timerbaev was a warm and generous person, charming everyone from diplomatic counterparts to graduate students. He told his CNS colleague William Potter that he “collected friends the way other people collect art.” A visitor to his home was always welcomed with enthusiasm and with a kaleidoscopic conversation ranging from the fate of the universe to music to the issues of the day—and with a gentle chiding if the visitor preferred water to whiskey or wine. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, and a classical music aficionado (especially Rachmaninov’s fiendishly complex 3rd Piano Concerto). He genuinely cared both about reducing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and about the individual people living under that Sword of Damocles. He will be sorely missed.

Matthew Bunn

Professor of practice

Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government


С чувством глубокой скорби узнал о кончине легенды отечественной дипломатии и выдающегося ученого Роланда Михайловича Тимербаева. Он был наставником, другом и учителем для нескольких поколений российских дипломатических работников, одним из крупнейших и наиболее авторитетных специалистов в мире по проблемам ядерного нераспространения и контроля над ядерными вооружениями.

Научное, творческое и политическое наследие талантливого ученого и педагога, теплые и светлые воспоминания о нем благодарных учеников и последователей навсегда останутся в нашей памяти. 

Кисляк С.И.

Первый заместитель председателя

Комитета по международным делам Совета Федерации


Уважаемые коллеги, Дорогие друзья,

Примите наше глубокое соболезнование в  связи с уходом из жизни Роланда Михайловича Тимербаева – нашего учителя, наставника по жизни и старшего товарища по работе.

Искренне Ваши – от имени Союза ветеранов МАГАТЭ,

Межрегионального Общественного Движения ветеранов 

Атомной Энергетики и Промышленности

Мурогов В.М.


Прошу передать семье Р.М. Тимербаева мои искренние соболезнования.

Арбатов А.Г.

Академик РАН, доктор исторических наук


Это действительно большая потеря для всех, кто знал этого замечательного человека. Для меня он был к тому же наставником в жизни и работе. Таких дипломатов можно пересчитать по пальцам. Светлая ему память.

Слипченко В.С.

ветеран МИД, в 2005–2009 гг. – эксперт Комитета

по нераспространению ОМУ Совета Безопасности ООН,

учрежденного резолюцией 1540


Роланд Михайлович – душевнейший, открытый, готовый поделиться своим необъятным опытом и огромнейшей эрудицией со всеми коллегами, в том числе и с только – только начинавшими свою карьеру в разоружении, как это было со мной, когда я впервые увидел его пятьдесят лет назад в знаменитой комнате 1011 на десятом этаже Смоленки. Будучи тогда, в его молодые годы, уже заместителем заведующего Отделом международных организаций под началом знаменитого Кирилла Новикова, он вовсе не кичился своим положением. Я далеко не сразу вообще узнал о его должности, настолько он был доступен всем нам в отделе, а особенно в референтуре разоружения, во главе которой тогда стоял безвременно ушедший от нас талантливейший Иван Чепров, Светлая память!

Перфильев В.

ветеран МИД, ООН


Светлая память великому человеку! Скорбим и от всей души соболезнуем. Огромная потеря для мира.

Синовец П.А.

Директор Одесского Центра нераспространения ОНУ им. И.И.Мечникова


Ушла эпоха… Специалисты в области международных отношений и нераспространения ОМУ меня понимают.

Евстафьев Д.Г.

Профессор НИУ ВШЭ


Слишком поздно я узнал о кончине Роланда Михайловича Тимербаева, чтобы успеть на прощание с этим уникальным, потрясающим ЧЕЛОВЕКОМ. Скорблю вместе с Вами о невосполнимой утрате.

Да, нет больше с нами этого великого мыслителя, дипломата, ученого, учителя – столпа нераспространения, и потрясающе доброжелательного чуткого человека. Светлая память Роланду Михайловичу!!!

Воронцов А.В.

Руководитель отдела Кореи и Монголии

Института востоковедения РАН


Dear friends,

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Roland Timerbaev, whom I feel honoured and privileged to have been able to count as a dear friend since meeting him in 1995.

Roland was not only a great arms controller and supporter of the NPT, as noted when I responded to this sad news on the Pugwash lists — he was a deeply wise and humane man for as long as I knew him.  His deep sense of commitment and responsibility led him to spend most of his “retirement” years teaching a new generation to care about security and disarmament.

As I write, I remember also his great kindness, sense of humour, and how his eyes twinkled when something – or someone – amused him.  A brilliant diplomat and truly gentle, fine and compassionate man, Roland will be well remembered and sadly missed.  I would like to extend my condolences to all his  family and friends, especially in PIR Center, who are mourning his loss now.

Rest in peace, dear Ambassador Timerbaev…

with love and fond memories


Dr Rebecca E. Johnson

Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Founding President of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN, 2017 Nobel Peace Laureate) ICAN Steering Group Member


Выражая самые искренние соболезнования в связи с кончиной Роланда Михайловича Тимербаева, которого я имел честь в течение многих лет знать, направляю Вам некоторые соболезнования, которые продолжают поступать в наш Комитет от пагуошцев разных стран, в том числе от бывшего президента Пагуошского движения учёных посла Дж. Дханапалы и действующего президента Пагуоша посла С. Дуарте. Навсегда сохраню благодарную память о Роланде Михайловиче! Весь состав Российского Пагуошского комитета при Президиуме Российской академии наук глубоко скорбит в связи с невосполнимой утратой…

Лебедев М.А.

учёный секретарь Российского  Пагуошского комитета

при Президиуме РАН


I wish to convey my personal condolences to the family of Ambassador Roland Timerbaev on his passing, as well as to colleagues in Russian Pugwash and PIR Center. As a young member of the Brazilian  delegation  to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee from 1966 to 1968 I had the privilege of working with Roland during the discussions of the draft NPT and later on different occasions. His competence, professionalism and warm personality will continue to inspire diplomats who work for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

Sérgio Duarte

United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs (2007-2012)


I have just been informed of the death of Roland Timerbaev a veteran Russian Pugwashite and a great disarmament campaigner and mourn this loss.

I had known Roland for years and benefited from his wisdom and experience.

He was a veteran of NPT Review Conferences.

Jayantha Dhanapala

Constitutional Council (Sri Lanka) as a civil representative,

Undersecretary General of the United Nations for Disarmament (1998-2003)


I express my deep sorrow for the passing away of Ambassador Roland Timerbaev , a veteran of nonproliferation and PIR veteran with whom the Egyptian Pugwash and the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs ( EcFA ) maintained excellent relations and benefited from his wisdom and experience . Sincere condolences for. this great loss.

Mounir Zahran

Chair, Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, Cairo, Egypt


Dear friends,

The German Pugwash Groups conveys its condolences for the death of Ambassador Timerbaev who was a giant for arms control and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. His life long commitment is in danger now, but his work is a role model for the future. At this sad occasion, our heartfelt condolences go to his family, his friends and our Russian Colleagues who work for peace, common understanding and preventing nuclear catastrophe.

Götz Neuneck

 Chair German Pugwash/VDW

IFSH – Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik

an der Universität Hamburg


Dear All,

On behalf of Pugwash Japan, we express our sincere condolences on the death of Amb. Roland Timerbaev. I personally had an honor to have several occasions to learn from him on various nuclear disarmament issues, in particular on Russian nuclear strategy.  We all miss him.

Tatsu Suzuki

Pugwash, Japan


As a Canadian, I express my condolences on the death of Roland Timerbaev, whom I have known for more than thirty-five years.   The nuclear disarmament structures he worked to establish seem to be crumbling today, but not the ideals he fostered. Those ideals live on. Not least, I learned from him to maintain a sense of humour in this grim business. He well served his country and the world.

Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.

former Chairman of the United Nations Disarmament Committee



Please let me add my condolences, to those already posted here, on the passing of Ambassador Timerbaev.  He was a great analyst, statesman, and human being.

John Holdren

Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy,

John F. Kennedy School of Government;

Professor of Environmental Science and Policy,

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences;

Affiliated Professor, Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science

Harvard University


My condolences on the passing of Ambassador Timerbaev.

Li Bin

Senior fellow

Nuclear policy program and Asia program,

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, China


I’m sending condolences and remembrances of Roland as a warm human being who exemplified the Pugwash spirit.

Jeffrey Boutwell


Executive director of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs


My sincere condolences! I knew Roland Timerbaev well and I had a high esteem of his skills, experiences, culture and humor. It was always a great pleasure to meet him. He attended my wedding on 7th August 1999, and he enriched it with wonderful socializing with our family and friends, who still love to talk about how nice it was to meet this kind and interesting man. All my deep condolences to all who knew and loved him.

Dr. Annette Schaper

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin Senior Research Associate Leibniz-

Institut Hessische Stiftung Friedens-und Konfliktforschung (HSFK)

Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF)


Очень соболезную. Огромная потеря.

Пархалина Т.Г.

Заместитель директора и руководитель Центра научно-информационных исследований глобальных и

региональных проблем Института научной информации по общественным наукам (ИНИОН) РАН


Режим нераспространения ядерного оружия уходит вместе с отцами-основателями. Я неправ как аналитик — сам ведь верю в то, что после повторного провала Обзорной конференции в 2020 году ДНЯО устоит и даже архитектуру контроля над вооружениями переосмыслят и воссоздадут на обновлённых принципах. Речь не о ДНЯО. Речь о советском дипломате, который стоял у его истоков — Роланде Махмутовиче Тимербаеве.

ДНЯО — договор всей его жизни. Он почти три года вёл по нему переговоры, двадцать три — занимался им в МИД СССР и ещё год в МИД России, продолжая представлять интересы страны в международных организациях в Вене. После отставки три года преподавал в Монтерейском институте, а в 1994 году помог создать ПИР-Центр — ведущий российский неправительственный исследовательский институт в этой сфере.

Я прежде не был знаком с человеком, чьи скромность и вклад в мир на этой планете были столь равновеликими — на дипломатическом фронте сравнимы с подвигами советских солдат в годы Великой Отечественной войны. Помимо ДНЯО, подпись под которым Громыко считал второй по важности после Устава ООН, Тимербаев принял участие в создании системы гарантий МАГАТЭ, международного экспортного контроля, а также соглашений в области контроля над вооружениями.

Роланд Махмутович все время читал и писал заметки. О чем? — Конечно, о ДНЯО! – отвечал с улыбкой. Его «спасибо, Вы проделали огромную работу» значило бесконечно много, а на 92 году жизни он уверенно писал «Вы можете полностью рассчитывать на мою помощь» — потому что искренне болел за своё дело.

В сообществе нераспространенцев не стало наставника, которому хотелось подражать и ради него сворачивать горы. Но нужно продолжать. Потому что «ДНЯО – это основа жизни. Это самый главный международный договор современности. Более важного договора просто нет. За этот договор нужно бороться изо всех сил, без него мы все пропадем. Нужно больше говорить о ДНЯО, чтобы все о нем знали».

Маргоев А.Р.

Редактор бюллетеня «Ядерный Контроль»


Hello. I’m so sorry for your loss of Amb. Timerbaev. I thought you might want these pictures. My husband is the grandson and namesake of William Chapman Foster who worked on the disarmament negotiations with him in the 1960s. Amb Timberbaev was helping me to identify some of the people in the pictures we inherited, including of himself.

Marcie Foster