The NY Times reports on the view from down the memory hole, bemoaning the lack of authentic Russian experts in these troubled times:
Russia Experts See Thinning Ranks’ Effect on U.S. Policy
But while the control of Crimea by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has brought America’s Russia experts in from the cold, the news media spotlight has also showed important shifts in how American academics and policy makers think about Russia, not to mention the quality and quantity of the people doing the thinking. Among those experts, there is a belief that a dearth of talent in the field and ineffectual management from the White House have combined to create an unsophisticated and cartoonish view of a former superpower, and potential threat, that refuses to be relegated to the ash heap of history.
“It’s a shorter bench,” said Michael A. McFaul, who returned from his post as the American ambassador in Moscow on Feb. 26, as the crisis unfolded. He said the present and future stars in the government did not make their careers in the Russia field, which long ago was eclipsed by the Middle East and Asia as the major draws of government and intelligence agency talent.
“The expertise with the government is not as robust as it was 20 or 30 years ago, and the same in the academy,” Mr. McFaul said.
However, the Times is able to think back to happier days:
“It is certainly harder for the White House, State Department and intelligence community to find up-and-coming regional experts who are truly expert on that region,” said Strobe Talbott, the president of the Brookings Institution and President Bill Clinton’s Russia point man. “It’s a market problem.”
Compounding the effects has been a lack of demand for Russian expertise at the very top of the foreign policy pyramid. Successive White Houses have sought to fit Russia into a new framework, both diplomatically and bureaucratically, as one of many priorities rather than the singular focus of American foreign policy. Since Mr. Clinton empowered Mr. Talbott, the portfolio has shrunk, and with it the number of aides with deep Russian experience, and real sway, in the White House.
Strobe Talbott? I know what you are thinking (unless you are one of the rare JOM readers who is also an Upper West Side progressive) - wasn't there someone in the Bush White House with a smidgin of Russian expertise? Be patient, a hint is coming:
While President George W. Bush looked into Mr. Putin’s soul, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke his language and President Obama sought a so-called reset of relations, they all found themselves discouraged that Mr. Putin, and Russia, did not behave the way they thought they should.
Condi Rice! That is the former Secretary of State, NSC head, and Bush alter-ego who came to prominence as a Russia expert in the first Bush regime. OK, earnest libs don't want to hear from her (Iraq, enhanced interrogation, drone executions of Americans... oops), but that doesn't mean she does not exist. Well, other than in TimesWorld.