The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy
By: Strobe Talbott
Okay, I normally do not read memoirs or autobiographies unless they are really really interesting (prior to picking this book up, I had a grand total of maybe three books that are considered memoirs/biographies). In fact, I initially did not bother picking up this book despite my interest in Russian history and politics but after reading the reviews for this book and the fact that my bookstore was recommending it, I decided to check it out. Strobe Talbott is a very impressive man; his academic credentials, his experience prior to becoming deputy-Secretary of State…very interesting indeed. And he wrote a very concise and clear memoir about his time as deputy-Secretary of State and his hand in Russian-American diplomacy during the Clinton Administration (perhaps another reason why I didn’t want to pick this book up originally). He does give a very interesting look at not only Clinton’s way of handling foreign leaders and relationships and about Yeltsin’s political tactics but he also showed a very interesting and rather detailed glimpse as to how foreign policy is conducted through these summits and visits. He also gives an interesting take on how American-Russian relations were during this period and how important it was especially since they had entered a “post-Cold War” period. The only issue I had about the book was the narrative in Chapter 15; Mr. Talbott had written the narrative chronologically but in Chapter 15, there was a bit of a fling back to the late Cold War period and then the dealings with the nuclear program problems and failed treaties in the 1990s. It’s a bit jarring since the rest of the book proceeded in a relatively well pace and chronologically. Otherwise, a great read, very fascinating and useful if you’re into Russian history, Russian politics and international relations.