Boosting Russian Ties With New U.S. Leader


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In response to "United States Lost Russia and Everything Else," a column by Fyodor Lukyanov on Oct. 15.

I also feel that Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have not adequately reached out to Russia. This relationship is something that many Americans want to work on.
We definitely do not want a Cold War with Russia. In the past, the Cold War divided the world and polarized most other countries. When the Cold War ended, it was through diplomacy that Russia and the United States kept peace among other nations through these close ties. If an ally of Russia and an ally of the United States had a difference, we could mediate between them and keep peace.
Though lately things have been strained, many of us value the influence of Russia and its allies. This is a relationship that we very much want to improve.
James Brown
Tracy City, Tennessee

Senator John McCain's views about Russia hark back to the Cold War: Russia is "a KGB apparatchik-run government," a nation that should be thrown out of the Group of Eight and kept out of the World Trade Organization, a country that represents a clear and present danger to former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Georgia, which should be admitted to NATO.
Senator Barack Obama's views about Russia are only slightly different from those of McCain. When the war broke out between Russia and Georgia, Obama called on both sides "to show restraint." Over time, Obama's position has hardened. In the first presidential debate, Obama referred to Russia as a "very aggressive" nation whose military action against Georgia was "unacceptable" and "unwarranted." In the second debate he described Russian behavior as "evil."
Why are Americans on both sides of the political aisle so quick to point the finger of guilt at Russia? As former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev noted in a recent comment for The New York Times, the West mounted a propaganda attack against Russia, with the U.S. news media leading the way. With some exceptions -- namely Britain, Sweden, Poland and the former Soviet republics -- European reporting about the conflict between Russia and Georgia has been more balanced and objective.
John H. Hodgson
Professor Emeritus
Syracuse University
Fayetteville, New York

In response to "Obama's Change Must Start With His Advisers," a comment by Edward Lozansky on Aug. 23.

Russia is no longer considered a worthy partner in the global arena, and Russia has no one to blame but itself. When Russia wants to play by the rules that the rest of us play by, the West will be more than happy to accept Russia back with open arms. The next 20 U.S. administrations will not change their stance on Russia. The ball is still in Russia's court. Trust has to be earned, and Russia has not earned anyone's trust, particularly among the advisers to Senator Barack Obama who are critical of Russia.
Michael Nine

Pom-Poms in Russia's Hands

In response to "U.S. Should Recognize South Ossetia," a column by Richard Lourie on Sept. 29.

I share Lourie's outrage at the inept conduct of Washington's policy toward Russia. Yes, Russia has been disrespected for more than eight years. The "Russia hands" in Washington who are shaping U.S. foreign policy are guilty of Kremlinological malpractice. Evidently, the phrase from the Hippocratic Oath, "Never do harm to anyone," is not an ethic they internalized.
Those waving the diplomatic pom-poms cheered on tiny Georgia until it became overly confident in its abilities to challenge Russia, and we all see how it ended.
Jonathan Sanders
The Bronx, New York

Russia Needs to Earn Trust

Russian leaders want to become equal members of the world community and to form a new alliance with Europe. It's time for President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to understand that using bullying techniques will not get the desired results.
To fully achieve these goals, the government needs to take a hard look at itself from the perspective of other countries. There are a number of areas where Russia is very different from other countries that need to be addressed before it will be truly accepted equally by the world community.
There are two things that countries truly look for in friendship and partnership -- respect and trust. Does Russia truly pass these tests?
There are many reasons not to trust Russian business. The first is that many elected leaders are involved in the management of businesses. In most democratic countries, elected leaders must admit to these conflicts of interest and put their assets in blind trusts. Too many of the decisions made by the Russian government are to benefit these businesses and the wealth of government officials.
Second, the government interferes with foreign investors and companies who try to do business in Russia. British Petroleum is just one example of government interference by withholding visas for foreign employees.
There are many other instances of the government simple taking over a foreign business after requesting their involvement in the Russian economy. Why would any foreign investor want to invest in a country where the government could take over the business or investment as it wishes?
The world community wants a partner, not a bully. When then-President Putin made his comments at NATO about Ukraine's territory being a gift from Russia, this did not show a country wanting to be a member of the international community, but a colonizer.
If Putin wants to change borders, he should also have made the comment that Russia would be giving back its borders that it acquired during World War II.
For Russia to truly become an equal member of the world economic and diplomatic community, it is time for the government to show the rest of the world that it is a team player both internally and externally. To date, the government has not seemed interested in this approach.
Pride in being Russian is commendable, but treating others without respect or true friendship is not.
Michael Blazenski
La Verne, California