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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The World Bids Fond, Sad Farewell to Mir

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Email the Opinion Page Editor

I'd like to offer my sincere congratulations to Energia and all it's staff on the successful and safe de-orbiting of the Mir space station, which after 15 years of service, must be considered the most successful manned space mission in history.

We are, of course, greatly saddened that the Mir station had to be abandoned. The long presence in the earth's sky of this great technical achievement inspired enthusiasm and gave hope to all the peoples of the world. Soaring high above every national border and earth-bound political and ideological divisions, the Mir was a sign of the boundless possibilities open to human achievement.

Humankind deserves to reach the stars, and Mir helped keep that dream alive. There should be more space stations, many more; and we should never again allow their number to decrease.

Mir was a tremendous achievement. May all of Energia's future endeavors be even more successful.

Rashid Patch
San Francisco, California

I just wanted to convey my respect to Russia for its incredible research and accomplishments on Mir. The Russian nation should be very proud.

Click here to read our special report on Russia's New Space Age.It is a shame that Mir could not have been brought down piece by piece and re-assembled in a museum as it represents an important part of mankind's history.

We should not forget the pride of the Russian people and the admiration we have for all of you now.

Gary Trosino
Orillia, Canada

I want to congratulate the Russian Space Center with its successful Mir mission which has now come to its end. It has been 15 very interesting years. Congratulations to the whole team.

Pierre De Coster
Affligem, Belgium

De-orbit Was a Mistake

Despite the press reports that we Westerners read about Mir, I am well aware of the contributions the Russian station made to science.

I also understand the patriotic significance Mir has to the average Russian. I was sad to see Mir brought down. Until the very moment that I heard someone talk live about the re-entry I had continued to hope that a sponsor would step forward to rescue the space station.

Mir should not have come down. I will miss the occasional sighting.

Robert Annandale
Vancouver, Canada

Mir in Western Media

In response to "May Mir's Legacy Be as Enduring," an editorial on Mar. 22.

Your editorial is dead-on about the failures of the Western media to properly respect Mir. Let's face it, there was never anything wrong with Mir that was not directly related to funding problems. The cargo ship crash, for example, was a result of not having funds to pay for new computer guidance systems for the Progress spacecraft.

Mir's technology and its crews did a magnificent job. In the future, I think historians looking back on 20th century space exploration will rank the successful work aboard Mir as second in importance only to the lunar landing.

The Russian people should be very, very proud. There would be no International Space Station — or if there were, it would be a disaster — without what we've learned from Mir. I only wish there could have been a way to boost the Mir to a higher orbit to make it a museum to be reclaimed in the future.

Steve Calabrese
Tempe, Arizona

Strange Spy Spat

In response to "Spy Spat Sends 50 Russians Packing," Mar. 23.

What's a guy to do? I was pleased when George Bush finally won the U.S. presidential election. A change in administration after eight years is almost always a good thing.

I was also pleased when, as chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce, I met Condoleezza Rice in Moscow during the Republican presidential primaries. She left me very comfortable that a Bush administration would have the right policy input on Russia. She made clear that she knew Russia and understood that an enhanced, long-term "engagement" was the basis for continuing to improve relations between the two countries.

I was also very pleased when I met Colin Powell and immediately understood how reasonable and rational he is.

I have not met Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, but have always believed, as they do, that the United States should have a strong defense but should not go shooting up various small nations just because we can.

So what happened when Robert Philip Hanssen was outted? Since long before the Soviet Union dissolved itself, this guy is said to have been leaking vital U.S. secrets to "diplomats" at the Soviet/Russian Embassy in Washington. And we are very upset.

We cannot be surprised since diplomats have been doing this for centuries. No Geneva Convention outlaws spying, and the FBI and the CIA have been looking for this mole for years. So what are we — embarrassed? OK — logical. But what has that to do with throwing 50 diplomats out of the Russian Embassy?

Were all 50 involved? No one says so. Are these the 50 who refused to work for us? (I assume it is okay for us to keep on spying.) I make the assumption that the ones who remain include those who are now working for us. Or are these the 50 who already work for us and now we enhance their credibility by sending them back to Moscow? Surely we would not send back the ones we already know are spying against us since then we would have to start over figuring out what each new Russian diplomat is really doing.

This entire charade looks less like a new Russia-focused diplomacy than like a spoiled 6-year-old throwing a temper tantrum because his mother has given his baby sister a nice birthday present. Perhaps one day soon we shall learn who made this so-called decision.

The Bush administration is right to conclude that America's Russia policy can be improved. But pretending that this is 1980 is pathetic. Wake up guys! It's a new world — even if it is not the New World Order.

Bruce Bean
Former Chairman,
American Chamber of Commerce in Russia

A Good Editorial …

In response to "Macedonia Mess Shows NATO Folly," an editorial, Mar. 4.

This was an excellent editorial. You might consider how NATO (and especially American) policy toward what was once Yugoslavia altered dramatically after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Before that time, and especially while Tito was alive, it was an article of faith among Western strategists that the political and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia had to be preserved. This was partly to preclude a Soviet takeover (I was never quite sure just how that would have been managed in those mountains, but that's beside the point); partly because ethnic rivalries there would splinter the country and lead to an open-ended series of bloody civil wars, given half a chance; and partly because none of the constituent states of Yugoslavia was economically viable on their own.

All of these arguments were — and are — valid. Once the Soviet Union was no longer on the world stage, however, encouraging the breakup of Yugoslavia by endorsing nationalist and secessionist movements there became the standard of U.S. and NATO policy. Indeed there is hardly a secessionist movement anywhere in the world that the United States — and to a slightly lesser extent, Britain — will not now endorse, excepting, of course, anything within their own territories, but that is the subject of a different editorial I suspect.

Precisely why this happened is a mystery as there does not seem to be either great political gain or significant personal/corporate profit at stake. But it is a mystery that needs to be resolved. There are many Yugoslavias waiting to happen in the wings out there if secessionist compulsions are allowed free rein.

Alan Ned Sabrosky, Ph.D.
Jackson, Mississippi

… And a Bad Editorial

In response to "World Can Help Russia In Chechnya," an editorial Mar. 19.

May I remind you that what you call "the world" has already helped Russia in Chechnya once in the mid-1990s. Then OSCE mediators played the role of the Chechen rebels' intelligence branch so effectively that in August 1996, the rebels managed to take Grozny in next to no time. The result is well-known: For the next four years, Europe had within its geographical borders a territory on which slavery was actually legitimized.

And now you are again extending your helping hand to Russia just as the world is seeing the disastrous results of another instance of your help imposed two years ago with the bombing of Yugoslav cities. The Albanian terrorists that were saved by the international community from Serbian genocide are now invading Macedonia and the KFOR troops are quietly pulling out in order to save their precious skins.

I think that offering anyone your help after two such grandiose washouts without correcting your previous mistakes or even recognizing that you made mistakes is presumptuousness bordering on arrogance. The most civilized answer I can think of for such offers is: "Mind your own business, guys."

Eugene Tsypin
St. Petersburg

Americans Are Diverse

As a citizen of the United States, I do not agree with the present administration's treatment of Russia. It is disconcerting that a president who was "elected" by five Supreme Court justices has now decided to turn the clock back regarding bilateral relations with Moscow. I have many friends in the Russian Federation and I am increasingly concerned that anti-American fervor there will increase because we have a staff of cold warriors running the United States government.

Please believe that the American people are a diverse lot and that the vast majority of us want a sincere and warm dialogue between our two great nations. Yes, I said "our" because I believe that the United States and Russia are the defining world powers, even though the Bush administration seems determined to write Russia off as a third-world nation.

Shannon McCain
Houston, Texas

The Turkish Model

In response to "It's Not Easy Moving Beyond East and West," a letter to the editor, Mar. 7.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, several prominent Western political theorists (including Brzezinski, Huntington, and Szporluk) have suggested that Russia follow the example of republican Turkey by constituting a nation-state and renouncing all ambitions on formal imperial territories.

These authors, however, fail to note two crucial differences between post-Ottoman Turkey and post-Soviet Russia. First of all, the Turks, as such, are not an ethnic nation but a conglomeration of 54 ethnic groups. By contrast, the Russians have been an ethnic nation since the latter half of the 19th century.

Therefore, to advise the Russians to take example from the Turks to form a post-imperial nation-state is absurd, to say the least.

Second, and much more prominent, is the fact that Turkey did not give up imperial ambitions out of goodwill. Ottoman Turkey suffered a bitter military defeat in World War I. The ensuing revolution and the creation of the republic in 1923 were, in essence, the struggle of a people against its death sentence epitomized by the Treaty of S?vres. This is a far cry from the relatively peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Empire from within because of pressing social and economic issues. Russia will, in all likelihood, attempt to reconstitute its former empire as it overcomes its internal problems, as evidenced by the reestablishment of its sphere of influence over Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Central Asia, and its ongoing effort to subdue Ukraine and Georgia. Suggesting that Russia follow Turkey's lead is not just a double standard, but outright naivety.

Unfortunately, Kirill Pankratov's letter to the editor provides an altogether different response to the arguments of Western political theorists, one based on the all-pervasive double standards against my country and my people with which I have had to become well acquainted during my years in Russia.

Pankratov accuses Turks of not admitting the wrongs they have inflicted on other peoples — entirely missing the point that it is people like him who charge an entire people with the atrocities committed by the tyrannical Ottoman monarchy, against whom the Turks protest. Few in Russia are familiar with the names of tyrants like Abdulhamit and Enver, under whom the Turks suffered no less than others. In contrast, Stalin and Beria, to the extent that they are associated with any people — and not that they should be — are considered Georgians, not Russians.

Accusing Turkey of fighting against Kurdish separatists, Pankratov apparently forgets about a place called Chechnya. His memory also fails him when it comes to Russia's threats to bomb Afghanistan and to strike at the part of Georgia where it claims Chechen separatists are based.

If the Ataturk cult in Turkey is "nothing remotely resembling the current status of any past and present Russian leader," Pankratov may be relieved to learn that no Turkish leader since Ataturk has had the authority or the popularity of President Vladimir Putin. And more, Ataturk had to die before becoming a cult figure.

Excepting an evil alliance of the type that grows between rogue states, Russia and Turkey could both draw great benefit from a relationship of mutual understanding and respect. For that to happen though, Russians will have to question the widespread notion that they are automatically right on all issues, vis-?-vis the Turks.

In the meantime, the -Turks are fully justified in making clear that such attitudes cannot be the foundation of a meaningful, productive relationship.

Alish Kocz
St. Petersburg

Deeper Analysis

In response to "Who Really Destroyed the Statues?" an editorial, Mar. 13.

I enjoyed the insight (at a lack in our nation's journalism I am afraid) that your editorial demonstrated — especially compared to what I've read in our papers.

What your article asked of me was the following: Is the West going against its beloved, justice-imbued philosophy of free-market capitalism when its powerful nations impose such severe sanctions on another nation that cripple the very free enterprise the West wants to promote?

What are the results of such a scenario? Fundamentalist religious beliefs are one example, and your editorial demonstrated such a point of view.

Your editorial provided a deeper analysis than is found in the West, where we are taught what to think rather than how to think about important issues.

Thank you so much.

Peter Mulholland
Summer Hill, Australia