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Wednesday, October 04, 2000

Strobe Talbott and the KGB


As influential as Gore was in setting Russian policy, he was rarely involved with the country on a day-to-day basis like Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. A native of Cleveland who graduated from Yale, Talbott, with his parents' encouragement, had devoted his life to Russian studies, culture and language. His friendship with Bill Clinton hails back to their days as Rhodes Scholars at Oxford. After college, Talbott joined Time as a rookie correspondent in the magazine's Moscow bureau. His career took off after he met Victor Louis (a pseudonym), a smooth, seasoned KGB operative. Louis masqueraded as an independent Soviet journalist. However, according to Insight reporter and Russia expert J. Michael Waller, Louis's real job was planting disinformation, recruiting agents and providing tips to trusted foreign journalists.

The KGB operative brought Talbott a treasure trove—boxes of documents and reels of tape concerning the career of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Talbott was asked to translate the material and write Khrushchev's biography. Louis informed Talbott's editors in New York that without Talbott's active participation there would be no biography. Time agreed and allegedly paid Louis $600,000. The book was a huge success, Talbott's name was on the cover, and his star was in ascendancy within liberal Democratic and journalistic circles.

Appointed by Clinton as deputy secretary of state, Talbott, at his 1993 confirmation hearings told Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., that he had remained in close contact with Victor Louis until his death about 10 years ago. Louis had provided him with valuable information about arms control, said Talbott, supplying him with sources within the Soviet Union. When Helms tried to make the former Time reporter admit that he knew Victor Louis was a KGB officer, Talbott insisted Louis was only a newsman.

Mysteriously, that controversial portion of the hearing transcript was never released, although a copy was obtained by Insight's Waller, who said it is damaging enough to prevent Talbott from ever holding office again.

In the past, Talbott was a vociferous defender of Boris Yeltsin.

"President Yeltsin is the personification of reform in Russia," Talbott said. This, despite the fact that Yeltsin refused to sign legislation outlawing money laundering and other corrupt business practices within his country.

In 1997, a group of CIA analysts provided Talbott with a report concerning Yeltsin's corruption as well as the criminal activities of other key Russian political figures. Talbott reportedly yelled at the analysts, ordering them to leave.

"If I were to believe half of what you said, I couldn't have a personal relationship with these men. U.S.-Russian foreign policy is based on my personal relationships. Without my personal relationship with Boris Yeltsin and the other Russian officials, we wouldn't have any foreign policy," he said at the State Department meeting.

In 1998, shortly after the meltdown of the Russian ruble and recommendations by Gore and Talbott that the U.S. shore it up, two former CIA analysts, a highly respected husband-and-wife team, visited Moscow and compiled a report full of damning information about Yeltsin and his cohorts. The couple met with Talbott and showed him a final draft of their report. They later told associates that Talbott wasn't pleased and summarily dismissed them.

During the winter of 1999, they traveled to Russia, where they were confronted by Russian internal security agents who had copies of their report and wanted to question them about their critical comments about Russian officials. They had previously been able to travel around the country, seeking information and asking questions without any interference from Russian security police. A former CIA station chief in one of the former Soviet republics, he told WND that he and his wife knew such access would never be possible again and that they were dismayed Talbott had burned them and their sources.

Talbott refused comment for this article. He also refused to cooperate with Rep. Chris Cox's committee, provoking the ire of the California Republican.

'Calm down, world!'
Gore and Talbott sought a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund payment during the summer of 1998 to help bail out the ruble. Many knowledgeable observers thought the money would go down a black hole, but the vice president and Talbott argued that the Russian economy was about to turn around and that without the IMF money democracy would end and the communists would win. In fact, federal law enforcement officials tell WorldNetDaily that less than 10 percent of the IMF money ever reached Russia.

Shortly after the Bank of New York scandal broke last summer, Talbott told Newsweek, "Calm down, world!" He attempted to downplay the seriousness of the money laundering at the Bank of New York. "We have been aware from the beginning that crime and corruption are a huge problem in Russia and a huge obstacle to Russian reform," he said. He pointed out that Gore had been on top of the problem for years, conferring with former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and two other former Russian premiers. He neglected to say that all three of those former premiers had been accused of corruption.

Despite all the serious allegations, for the most part Gore is still allowed by the establishment media to get away with claiming Russia as a success story. No reporters have pressed him with questions about the Russian mob, a subject about which he knows a lot, or how he allowed Viktor Chernomyrdin, the co-chairman of his commission, to continue to enrich himself at the expense of Russia during the same time he served with Gore.


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