OBITUARY

Robert Edwin Berls Jr.

November 11, 1939November 10, 2021

Colonel Robert “Bob” Edwin Berls, Jr. Ph.D was born in Brooklyn, NY on November 11, 1939 to Robert and Marion Berls. Bob and his brother, Richard, attended Bay Shore High School on Long Island, NY where he excelled as a student. In the 8th grade, Bob was selected to be a delegate to an UN-sponsored meeting in the Netherlands, beginning his lifelong career in diplomacy.

Little known to many of his friends and colleagues is that Bob was an accomplished musician and even considered making it his career, at one point studying with the first-chair oboist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

Bob ultimately chose a career focused on foreign relations and attended Colgate University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Russian Area Studies. He subsequently acquired a master’s degree in Soviet Studies from Harvard University and a doctorate in Russian area studies from Georgetown University. Bob held teaching positions at the National War College, National Defense University and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Bob’s professional career began in the Air Force where he served for 26 years, rising to the rank of Colonel. During the mid-1980s, he served as the Air Force Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He served as special assistant to the Secretary of Energy for Russia/NIS programs, during the first Clinton Administration.

Bob was at the center of one of the most intense periods in US-Russian relations. He participated at every level, from being involved in the highest-level negotiations to being interrogated by local KGB officers in backwaters of the former Soviet Union.

After a distinguished career that spanned military, government, academia and business, Bob joined the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to prevent catastrophic attacks and accidents with weapons of mass destruction, as one if its first employees.

Among other projects, he led the NTI initiative at Russia’s SarovLabs, part of a U.S.-Russian effort to find new commercial avenues for the former Soviet Union’s “Nuclear Cities” which supported the country’s nuclear weapons complex. NTI helped the lab develop international marketing capabilities, which led to a multifold increase in revenue and staff size, ensuring there were alternatives to seeking work that could contribute to global proliferation. He also managed NTI’s role to fund high-priority infrastructure development for the Shchuch’ye Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility in Siberia, to help Russia meet its goal to destroy all chemical weapons by 2012.

Bob represented NTI on the Carnegie Endowment’s Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI), a high-level international commission addressing Euro-Atlantic security needs for the twenty-first century. He served as executive director of an EASI working group on missile defense.

Bob was instrumental in establishing and managing the Younger Generation Leaders Network on Euro-Atlantic Security (YGLN) — a capacity-building initiative established by NTI in 2014 that is designed to foster dialogue among young emerging leader from the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and Europe on contemporary challenges facing the Euro-Atlantic region.

Bob passed away on November 10, 2021. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Tatiana, and by his daughter Natasha and his son Grisha and his grandchildren, Robby, Sasha, and Katya.

Bob was not only a witness to history, but an active participant. All those who knew Bob mourn the passing of a man who was dedicated to his country, to democracy, and to making the world a better and safer place for future generations.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to “The Robert E. Berls, Jr. Next Generation Fund” to promote understanding and scholarship among U.S., European, Russian and Asian young professionals and students.

Donations can be made via credit card on NTI’s website at https://www.nti.org/donate/ - or by writing a check made payable to the “Nuclear Threat Initiative” and mailing it to: Nuclear Threat Initiative, Inc. Mail Code: 6809 P.O. Box 7247 Philadelphia, PA 19170-0001 Donations (both online and by mail) should be designated as going to “The Robert E. Berls, Jr. Next Generation Fund.”

Services

  • Funeral Service

    Monday, November 22, 2021

  • Funeral Service

    Monday, November 22, 2021

Memories

Robert Edwin Berls Jr.

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Marguerite Matson

November 25, 2021

I first met Bob when we were teenagers in Brightwaters, N.Y. We were part of a group which shared many good times including trips
to NYC, playing bridge, trips to the beach, etc. Bob drove us all everywhere. We reconnected about five years ago through a mutual friend and had been exchanging emails since. Bob is one of the nicest, fun-loving, interesting and most accomplished people I have ever met. and I will always treasure our times together. We shared a delightful lunch two years ago and had fun reminiscing about our youth.

My sympathy to his wife Tatiana , his children and grandchildren.
I will miss him, but he will always be in my heart.

Marge Pinter Matson

Diane Hauslein

November 22, 2021

Bob was my dear friend and supportive colleague at NTI for 16 years. His kindness and interest in presenting the NTI Moscow office (and Moscow itself) to me in 2002 will never be forgotten. He was a fascinating, smart, intuitive person and I miss him now. With love and deepest sympathy to his family. Diane Hauslein.

jim miks

November 22, 2021

I remember watching the sunrise at Silver Bay with Bob. Lake George and Silver Bay brought joy to his spirit. He commented on how much he appreciated a lake swim to start the day. Bob's love for Silver Bay was present that day. I hope that grief and sorrow turn into good memories and into healing stories for his family soon. I also know that Lake George will find a way to help his loved ones to heal and to celebrate his life.

Love Jimmy

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY