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The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy
Synopses & Reviews
During the past ten years, few issues have mattered more to America’s vital interests or to the shape of the twenty-first century than Russia’s fate. To cheer the fall of a bankrupt totalitarian regime is one thing; to build on its ruins a stable democratic state is quite another. The challenge of helping to steer post-Soviet Russia-with its thousands of nuclear weapons and seething ethnic tensions-between the Scylla of a communist restoration and the Charybdis of anarchy fell to the former governor of a poor, landlocked Southern state who had won national election by focusing on domestic issues. No one could have predicted that by the end of Bill Clinton’s second term he would meet with his Kremlin counterparts more often than had all of his predecessors from Harry Truman to George Bush combined, or that his presidency and his legacy would be so determined by his need to be his own Russia hand.
With Bill Clinton at every step was Strobe Talbott, the deputy secretary of state whose expertise was the former Soviet Union. Talbott was Clinton’s old friend, one of his most trusted advisers, a frequent envoy on the most sensitive of diplomatic missions and, as this book shows, a sharp-eyed observer. The Russia Hand is without question among the most candid, intimate and illuminating foreign-policy memoirs ever written in the long history of such books. It offers unparalleled insight into the inner workings of policymaking and diplomacy alike. With the scope of nearly a decade, it reveals the hidden play of personalities and the closed-door meetings that shaped the most crucial events of our time, from NATO expansion, missile defense and the Balkan wars to coping with Russia’s near-meltdown in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. The book is dominated by two gifted, charismatic and flawed men, Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, who quickly formed one of the most intense and consequential bonds in the annals of statecraft. It also sheds new light on Vladimir Putin, as well as the altered landscape after September 11, 2001.
The Russia Hand is the first great memoir about war and peace in the post-cold war world.
"We do get abundant glimpses of the absurdities and the frustrations of statecraft, a messy business with endless compromises of principles; agendas upended by events; miscalculation; perpetual crisis management; and at most small victories....Talbott's lively and personal account of his tremendous fun in helping run the world is not a revelation on the order of the Khrushchev memoirs that he translated, but a warts-and-all valentine to his charismatic friend of thirty-four years and the clubby circle who shared the author's experience of a paradoxical presidency." Stephen Kotkin, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
"Once again Strobe Talbott has written an important and insightful diplomatic history. This richly crafted book, the first authoritative inside account of President Clinton?s personal diplomacy with Russian presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, could have been written only by Talbott, with his reporter?s eye for the telling anecdote, his deep knowledge of Russia, his intimate personal involvement in the events he describes, and his central role as Clinton?s 'go-to-guy' on Russia policy. The portraits of Clinton, Yeltsin and others, as well as the blow-by-blow account of the roller coaster Russian-American relationship in the Clinton years, ensure that The Russia Hand will be a sourcebook for future historians." Hedrick L. Smith
Fascinating and compelling reading — this book is at once a serious political science text and a work of high comedy. Strobe Talbott has given us a marvelous window on a rare moment of important and delicate diplomacy between the United States and Russia and, more important, those two most unlikely partners, Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin." David Halberstam
"A unique document, by turns racy, scholarly, personal, and always of our time. We shall not read its like for a long while. An indispensable and generous contribution to contemporary history." John Le Carre
"Strobe Talbott has written a wonderfully rich and revealing account of the turbulent relationship between the U.S. and Russia during the first post-Cold-War years. Colorful, full of surprises and intimate portraits of the key people involved — by the man who was at the center of it all — this book is and will remain essential for any understanding of this critical and even dangerous period." Elizabeth Drew
"The Russia Hand is easily one of the best memoirs of Presidential diplomacy ever written. With his great command of history, gift of language, sense of detail, and eight years at the center of American foreign policy-making, Strobe Talbott has brought us a fascinating, often surprising account of an historic and pivotal period. The Russia Hand shows us what a complex and impressive achievement it was for the United States to build a lasting relationship with its old enemy of half a century. When historians begin to assess the Presidency of Bill Clinton, this book will be basic and mandatory reading." Michael Beschloss
An astonishing memoir by president Bill Clinton's longtime confidant and Russia-policy prime mover explores America's decade-long effort to keep one large, dangerous, failed superpower from plunging into anarchy, or worse.
About the Author
Strobe Talbott was the architect of the Clinton administration's policy toward Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union. He served as deputy secretary of state for even years. A former Time magazine columnist and Washington bureau chief, he is the translator-editor of Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs and the author of six books on U.S.-Soviet relations. He is now director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.
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