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Talbott Confirmed in No. 2 Spot at State

February 23, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate approved Strobe Talbott’s nomination as deputy secretary of state, turning aside complaints that he was biased against Israel and soft on communism.

Talbott, a former journalist and a close friend of President Clinton, was confirmed by a vote of 66-31 Tuesday.

Last spring, the Senate easily confirmed Talbott to his present position, as the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for Russia and the former Soviet republics. But his nomination for the No. 2 spot at State was slowed by charges that his writings when he was a Time magazine correspondent revealed an anti-Israel bias.

Opponents on Tuesday turned to another issue, Russia, in asserting that he has unfit for the job. Sen. Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., said Russia has been allowed to cast ″silent vetoes″ over U.S. foreign policy options, and ″I am concerned that Mr. Talbott has been the leading advocate within the administration for yielding to Russia’s wishes.″

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that because of Talbott’s ″overbearing regard for Russian sensitivities″ as part of a ″Russia-first″ approach, ″he surrendered U.S. interests in regional stability, economic growth and political liberty.″

Several Republicans also cited Talbott’s writings as a journalist criticizing Reagan and Bush administration get-tough policies toward the Soviet Union.

Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., noted that Talbott was a good friend of the late Soviet journalist Victor Louis, an alleged KGB agent known for disseminating information to the West. Helms said Louis ″did a good job with Mr. Talbott″ in conveying propaganda that the Soviet Union was not such a bad place.

Talbott’s defenders quoted his statements in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings earlier this month in which he stressed his commitment to strong U.S.-Israel relations.

″There is no question of Strobe Talbott’s abilities,″ said Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J. ″I simply do not believe that Strobe Talbott would do anything but work competently for the administration’s policies.″

″He has the full and complete confidence of the president and the secretary of state,″ Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, said. ″He is eminently qualified to assist Secretary of State (Warren) Christopher.″

Talbott, who was Clinton’s roommate when the two were Rhodes scholars at Oxford, will enter a key policy-making circle at the State Department as well as being responsible for overall management of the department.

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