Strobe Talbott: Russia's Man in Washington

By Timmerman, Kenneth R. | The American Spectator, April 1998 | Go to article overview

Strobe Talbott: Russia's Man in Washington


Timmerman, Kenneth R., The American Spectator


The news from Russia is rarely good these days. The KGB is back, albeit with a new name, spying on U.N. weapons inspectors on behalf of Saddam Hussein while former KGB boss Yevgeniy Primakov leads the charge against the U.S. effort to punish Iraq. In Tehran, Russian state-owned firms are helping the Iranians develop new missiles that will allow them to threaten U.S. forces and allies in the Middle East for the first time. In Moscow itself, where Boris Yeltsin's government has a hard time paying "non-essential workers" (such as security guards at nuclear warhead storage depots), the Clinton administration has been providing billions of dollars in military aid, investment credits, and IMF funding-benevolent gestures that have freed up scarce hard currency and allowed the Russians to embark on an astonishing across-theboard modernization of their strategic weapons systems. While the U.S. is dismantling nuclear warheads, submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Russian federation is busy designing and building new ones-arguably, with U.S. funds.

Russia's roguish behavior these days is uncannily reminiscent of Soviet behavior during the Cold War, and critics of the Clinton administration think they know why. "Russia respects strength, consistency, and candor," says Rep. Curt Weldon (RPenn.), a student of Russian history and a Russian speaker. "If they do something wrong, you have to call them on it." Instead, the Clinton administration has consistently turned a blind eye to Russian misdeeds and found excuses for Russian boorishness. The architect of this pernicious policy toward Russia is a former Time magazine journalist who has admitted to a close personal and professional relationship to an alleged top KGB agent during the Cold War-Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.

Allegations that Talbott had been used by the KGB during his journalistic career were briefly aired at his confirmation hearing on February 8, 1994, by Senator Jesse Helms, who was then ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And despite Talbott's equivocal answers, they were just as quickly ignored. Except for a single AP wire story, and a subsequent report in the Wall Street Journal (and of course, the Washington Times), not a single mainstream media organization picked up on Helms's queries that Talbott owed his career at Time magazine to a suspected KGB agent-of-influence named Victor Louis. Citing U.S. intelligence reports and statements by KGB defectors, Helms asserted that Louis was responsible for leaking the memoirs of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to Talbott in 1969 and for later assisting Talbott at critical moments in his career with inside Kremlin information.

HIGH PROFILE DISASTERS

Talbott's past is significant today because he is in charge of U.S. policy toward Russia, which has gone very, very wrong since it became his responsibility in the first month of the Clinton administration. "Our goal, like that of many Russians, is to see Russia become a normal, modern state-democratic in its governance, abiding by its own constitution and by its own laws, market-oriented and prosperous in its economic development, at peace with itself and with the rest of the world," he told an audience at Stanford University last September. But despite these lofty goals, Talbott has been very secretive about his actions, especially with congressional oversight committees. According to Rep. Weldon, who chairs the National Security Committee's Military Research and Development subcommittee: "It is Strobe Talbott who is determining what intelligence will or will not be given to Congress, what will or will not be said, what will or will not be perceived as a threat. That is simply not acceptable." To advance his goal of funneling more and more U.S. taxpayer dollars to Russia, Talbott has systematically been economical with the truth.

One reason for this secretiveness has been a series of high stakes disasters that the administration would prefer to keep under wraps, starting with Russia's absolutely scandalous transfer of ballistic missile technology to both Iran and Iraq. …

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