Books: Moscow Without Tears

The Russia Hand tells the inside story of why Bill Clinton spent so much time wooing Boris Yeltsin

"Sober but sick," said Bill Clinton on catching sight of Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the Cologne G-8 summit in 1999. Clinton was a shrewd judge of his counterpart's state. By the end of Clinton's presidency, writes Strobe Talbott in his excellent new book, The Russia Hand (Random House; 478 pages), the American had met Yeltsin almost as many times as Clinton's nine predecessors combined had met their Russian equals.

Was all the contact worth it? At the time, many didn't think so. In the last years of Yeltsin's rule, he had become an always ailing, often drunk figure at the...

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