Talbott Made His Name on Russia State Department Nominee Is an Old Friend of Clinton

Article excerpt

AS A HIGH SCHOOL student, Strobe Talbott studied Russian. He wrote his thesis at Yale University on Russian poetry. He studied Russian literature at Oxford. And at age 24, he translated and edited Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs.

It was the start of a career as an expert in U.S.-Soviet relations and arms control that culminated Tuesday in his being chosen as deputy secretary of state, the department's No. 2 position.

His roommate at Oxford University, a fellow Rhodes scholar named Bill Clinton, has recalled sustaining Talbott with scrambled eggs and biscuits while he labored over the Khrushchev memoirs.

They have remained friends since. When Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, visited Washington, he often stayed at Talbott's house.

For most of his 47 years, Talbott has had one foot in journalism, the other in scholarship. On the journalism side, he worked for Time magazine, covering Eastern Europe, the Henry Kissinger State Department and the Gerald Ford White House. He served as chief of the magazine's Washington bureau and as a diplomatic correspondent.

Earlier this year, he gave up his most recent post as editor-at-large for the weekly newsmagazine to become ambassador-at-large at the State Department - the administration's top strategist on Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union.

It was a job created for Talbott, with an office at the State Department and his own staff, reporting directly to Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher without any bureaucratic intervention.

This created an unusual situation. Stephen Oxman, a law school classmate of Hillary Rodham Clinton, was assistant secretary of state for European affairs, but Russia and other former Soviet republics were outside his jurisdiction.

Since he took the post in April, Talbott has been a strong voice for U. …