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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Why Should Rich Rural Lands Live in Poverty?


A visit to the rural sector of the Kursk region last week left me highly perplexed. Subsistence peasant agriculture on the famous 6 sotok -- the standard 20 by 30 meter plot which the Communists decided was not to be exceeded by any household in the countryside in what is the most spacious country in the world -- is alive, with poultry, goats, fruit and potatoes. People produce for their own needs, but there is no significant surplus and no participation in a cash economy.

Next to this subsistence agriculture, huge fields of wheat cover the beautiful undulating scenery of this black soil region in southwestern Russia, perhaps the most fertile in the world. Incredibly, somebody has bothered to plow and plant, and the wheat seems to be growing well.

Assuming the price of wheat is $100 per ton and the yield per hectare is 4 tons, then 1000 hectares should bring a gross income of $400,000. Note that these are low estimates: American wheat costs more and the fertile soil and ideal climate can yield more than 4 tons per hectare.

Where has all this wealth gone? Who received the wheat? If the money has not been paid, why not? If the money has been paid, why don't we see brand new combine harvesters? Why the abject poverty in the rural sector? In view of the above figures, how can the $27 monthly wage of a kolkhoznik, or collective farmer, pose a problem? If somebody in Russia can pay $180 for American wheat, why can't they pay $100 for Russian wheat? Why isn't anyone asking these simple questions?

It is clear that wheat money has to flow back to the rural sector. But does this mean that it flows back to the kolkhoz director? If not, then to whom? How? The answers are not clear, but that is a strong reason to make an issue of it, urgently and loudly.

In view of the large sums involved, one or two years of honest reinvestment of wheat money back into the rural sector, where it belongs, should be enough to at least kick-start and steer the countryside back on the road to recovery and prosperity. There is nothing sordid here. Just the suggestion of paying rural people for the wheat that they produce. This is only normal, isn't it?

Basile Kotschoubey

Divine French Toast

In response to "Fast Food Fuel Amid the Election Coverage Chaos," July 5.


Oh why, oh why do people keep picking on our American French toast?

French toast was concocted by Martha Washington to honor a delegation of French diplomats visiting her Virginia home. Food for the French, not of the French, French toast is divine.

But eating it with Golden Syrup is a great faux pas. Maple syrup is the dressing of choice.

An American cook

Hawkish Defense

In response to "America Finds Lebed Is No Colin Powell," June 28.


Martin Walker asserts that "it was odd for [retired general Alexander Lebed] to spoil much of his very favorable public image in the United States by sending Vladimir Titov to Washington." Later in the article he goes further, "If Titov's Washington trip was meant to reassure the Americans about General Lebed, it seems to have a rather different effect."

How did Walker come to these conclusions? Did he interview Titov? No. Did he call the American organization sponsoring the trip to get its perspective? No. Did he talk to a representative sample of the dozens of American officials who spoke with Titov? No.

As president of the American Foreign Policy Council, which sponsored Titov's visit, I attended most of Titov's Washington meetings.

The overwhelming impression was that of a serious and honest man who was open to discussing all aspects of Russia's relationship with the United States. Much common ground was found and certainly will be further explored in the future. Of course, Titov also advanced positions of Russian national interest which did not coincide with U.S. interests. But that was not viewed in a totally negative sense -- indeed many welcomed his frankness. Contrary to the gist of Walker's article, Titov left American policy makers positively impressed.

Walker asserts that Lebed's new prominence helps American hawks and Reagan-era veterans call for more U.S. spending on anti-ballistic missiles defense and even more of the hyper-modern Seawolf submarines.

In fact, American hawks and most Reagan-era veterans have been for an anti-ballistic missile system and the Seawolf submarines since the 1980s -- long before Lebed arrived on the scene. To suggest that these positions were suddenly stated or intensified because of the presence of an aide to General Lebed is to ignore the history of hawkish or owlish support for those programs.

Herman Pirchner

American Foreign Policy Council