Finding a Way to Deal with Corrupt Traffic Police

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In response to "Corruption Helping New Fines Work," an article by Natalya Krainova on Jan. 11.

Editor,
While the matter of corruption among the traffic police was mentioned several times in the article, the author failed in my view to highlight one of the most common scenarios for such corruption. Here is a recent example.

My husband was recently stopped by the traffic police even though he had not broken any traffic rules. The police demanded a 500 ruble fine, complaining that it was the New Year's holidays and they needed money for their families. When my husband denied them any money, they said, "OK, now we are charging you with driving on the opposite side of the road, and we will remove your driving license for five months."

I wonder how drivers can protect themselves from such harassment by the authorities? Should they be allowed by law to use voice or video recorders when stopped by the traffic police to get protection against false allegations?
Lana Utkina
New York


Editor,
Corruption has never helped anyone, but it has failed the smooth running of honest policies in politics and economics. I know of African countries plagued with corrupt leaders, and I wonder what happened to the booming economies that the countries once had. They have all been watered down by corruption. That is it. The new generation multiplies this problem, and what do we end up with? A huge wheel of corruption bigger then it was before.
Firozali A Mulla
Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania


Methodology Is Clear

In response to "Institute to Delve Into U.S. Democracy," an article by Alexander Osipovich on Jan. 14.

Editor,
The article "Institute to Delve Into U.S. Democracy" quotes Anatoly Kucherena's assertion that Freedom House rates democracy worldwide using a methodology "that nobody understands."

In fact, Freedom House publishes the methodology used in our annual survey, Freedom in the World, on our web site and in our book. We also visit a number of key countries -- including Russia, where our work appears to be of particular interest -- to explain it in person. In 2006, Freedom House traveled to Moscow to meet with representatives of government and civil society, and held a news conference outlining our methodology and findings for the country.

While evaluating a concept like freedom will always be fraught with some ambiguity, Freedom House has been examining the state of freedom worldwide since 1972, and we are quite confident that the methodology we have developed is clear and, more important, accurate. We invite readers to examine it on our web site, www.freedomhouse.org.
Jennifer Windsor
Executive director
Freedom House


Prestige of Foreign Policy

In response to "Russia's Foreign Policy is Not the Problem," a comment by Alexander Kramarenko, director for policy planning at the Foreign Ministry, on Jan. 11.

Editor,
Russia's foreign policy determines its national prestige.

The Soviet Union's prestige was damaged seriously after Josef Stalin refused to help Spain against Francisco Franco, but it received a tremendous boost after the allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. However, Stalin could not maintain that prestige due to personal flaws and his refusal to get involved in Greece's civil war, the Chinese occupation of Tibet, or Chiang Kai-shek's leadership of Taiwan.

Only under Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev did Soviet prestige grow rapidly, due to Moscow's support of Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, India, Angola, Ethiopia and Afghanistan.

However, Boris Yeltsin made both himself and Russia became the laughingstock of the world. The world saw Russia as a corrupt country ruled by a drunken buffoon and filled with millions of very poor people.

The situation has improved under President Vladimir Putin. But the recent events in Kosovo threaten to diminish Russia's prestige to the level of the Yeltsin era. Unless Russia can stand up to the West over Kosovo and a possible U.S. invasion of Iran, it will be viewed as another Nigeria -- a country with a lot of money from oil and gas exports but with a corrupt government and very poor people.
Dipak Basu
Professor, Nagasaki University
Nagasaki, Japan


Leave Putin's Soul Alone

In response to "Clinton: Putin Has No Soul," an article by Reuters on Jan. 9.

Editor,
Anyone who has read a page of Russian literature -- be it Turgenev, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky -- would surely understand how deeply Russians revere the concept of the "Russian soul." To insult a foreign dignitary on a personal level cannot serve U.S. interests. Are we losing one misspeaking American president, only to be replaced by another?
Andrea Marsh
Paris


Editor,
U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton saying that President Vladimir Putin doesn't have a soul is unprofessional coming from a presidential candidate.

She says that President George W. Bush has burned bridges with his foreign policy and that she will behave differently. But her comment is a personal attack that can only sever ties. If she were to meet with Putin, would he think her smiling, warm and friendly demeanor was sincere after her comment? At least with Putin what you see is what you get. He doesn't seem to flatter or schmooze for the sake of politics; you know where you stand.To my knowledge, Bush and Putin have a relationship built on trust and respect. Clinton's comment has just made that impossible with Putin.
Michelle Harger
Leander, Texas


Sympathy Over Dog Killing

In response to "Man Kills 2 for Butchering Dog," a staff article on Jan. 10.

Editor,
I understand completely why Alexander Yermilov killed his two friends. My dog is so important to me that I would feel the same should anyone ever hurt it. Animals have just as much right to be here as we do.

Lorraine Constantinou
Earlwood, Australia