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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Who Is Being Allowed Inside the Europe Club

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In response to "The EU's Iron Curtain," a comment by Alexei Pankin on Oct. 11.

Pankin makes the statement "EU expansion has also restricted Russians' freedom of movement. We now need visas to travel to countries we had visited freely our whole lives, including the former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia."

Russian citizens needed visas to visit the Baltic states long before they accepted EU membership and these places were never "countries that we visited freely our whole lives," but rather unwilling states within a country state which annexed them after World War II.

Andrew Boag
Palmerston North, New Zealand

Visa regulations are internationally bound by reciprocity. If hindrances exist for Russians applying for an EU visa, the same hindrances exist for EU citizens applying for a Russian visa.

In practice in most EU consulates in Russia visa regulations are transparent, not as strict as Pankin wants us to believe, and visas are issued within a few days. I wonder whether Pankin has ever visited a Russian consulate abroad and has been subjected to the lengthy, bureaucratic and absolute arbitrary process that one encounters when applying for a Russian visa.

Of course as a Russian he would know how to "solve" such inconveniences. Perhaps he tries to tell us that he is uncomfortable with the fact that one cannot "solve" inconveniences -- if any there be -- in the same way in the consulates of EU member states? But then again, any misery that falls to a Russian's lot is by definition caused by someone else.

Alex Popov

Mending Fences

In response to "EU Talk End a Dangerous Deadlock," a story by Louis Meixler on Oct. 5.

I was fortunate enough to find myself in Istanbul during last week's crisis over Turkey's accession to the EU.

There was a tangible sense that a potentially catastrophic betrayal was about to take place. The EU will be lucky if it manages to heal the wound that the blatant discrimination and snobbery shown to Turkey has opened up.

The desire to avoid destabilizing the Turkish government was a strong reason to start the accession process. But more importantly, a Turkey within the EU can bridge the gap with an Islamic world that feels disenfranchised by world politics.

Putting economics aside, that Turkey only has a marginal presence on European soil is irrelevant. Does every member of NATO have a North Atlantic coastline? Furthermore, for an organization that includes Britain, which in recent years has routinely held terrorist suspects for periods of months without informing them of the accusations against them let alone a charge, to start flapping about human rights is frankly hypocritical.

The EU should then look deeply at the cause of this crisis and face up to the destructive forces of xenophobia and racism if it ever wants its foreign policy to be taken seriously on the world stage.

Alex Meredith

Talent Spotters

In response to Mark Titov's letter published Sept. 29, which was in response to"Ball in Pittsburgh Native's Court," a story by Carl Schreck on Sept. 13.

Mark Titov did miss something -- the end of the Cold War.

But it also sounds like he missed a heck of a lot of facts as well. The face of the former Soviet Union is not exclusively white. And since when did skin color matter more than the game?

In the business of international sports, athletes are bought and sold, passports traded and turned in, and there are more Russians and former CIS athletes to get American and other foreign citizenship to compete in everything from the Olympics on down than Americans playing for Russia.

Many of the women on the Mexican national soccer team are U.S.-born Latinas. Americans competed on the Greek Olympic baseball team in Athens. The list is endless. And just for the record, the United States has been exporting African-American talent oversees for generations -- and not just in the sports field.

That an American -- of any race -- is playing for the Russian national basketball team is a source of pride for Americans. The former Soviet Union leads the world in professional sports, and identifying talent has always been one of its strong points.

Kamau Kemayo
Kim Palchikoff

It Won't Work in Practice

In response to "The Danger of Porous Borders," a comment by Dmitry Rogozin on Oct. 10.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with it, Rogozin's argument is fairly academic and will remain so, until someone works out how to stop public workers taking bribes. You can have all the legislation in the world, but if it can be overturned by the authority on the spot for as little as 100 rubles, then it's not going to change the situation.

James Wilson-Fish

The Face of Moscow

As an experienced documentary photographer who has been working in Moscow for over a year, I feel compelled to write about the entertainment photographs.

I was appalled at the cover picture on your issue on Sept. 21, that appeared with the cutline "A woman selling aprons of matryoshka nesting dolls on the Arbat, the pedestrian street popular with tourists."

I have always joked that your paper must have a policy of showing only toothless old ladies, Soviet vestiges and pensioners whenever possible, but this took the biscuit. Out of all the things in this city you felt this befitting and representative of Moscow and Russians!

It is as though someone were to go to New York, constantly take pictures of street bums and gluttonous people stuffing their faces, with fat stomachs spilling out of their jeans, and then regularly print them in an expat publication there.

Would you call that fair or representative of America? It is indeed conceivable that such a thing could exist?

Michael Hockney
Nanaimo, Canada

Learning From History

In response to "A Tough Nut in a Hard Place," a comment by Yulia Latynina on Oct. 5.

It is clear that President Vladimir Putin is using historical precedent to reform regional government. The appointment of Arsen Kanokov as president of Kabardino-Balkaria follows the concept of Hubert Walter -- Richard the Lionheart's Proconsul in England and Wales -- in the appointment of coroners to represent the English Crown in the shires. These "keepers of the pleas of the Crown" were unpaid and had to have a significant income from other sources to ensure they were incorruptible -- a plan that failed ignominiously -- and act as a check on corrupt sheriffs, who derived their wealth from bribery, extortion and blackmail.

The institution of this office in 1194 was one of the key factors leading to Baron's revolt and the signing of Magna Carta, 20 years later. Khordokovsky could usefully use his time in prison becoming familiar with English constitutional history.

Hugh Edwards

Not Getting Any Better

In response to "Still Behaving Rudely After All These Years," a comment by Robert Clawson on Oct. 12.

I too experienced Russian boorishness as a student in the Soviet Union and, in my opinion, it has become worse since then.

As an Englishman who has lived for 10 years in Moscow, I am increasingly becoming more reluctant to excuse the constant aggressive and boorish behavior of Russian males. I used to try to explain their bad manners as a result of the dog-eat-dog lifestyle of the Soviet Union. However, I now realize that boorishness must have been bred into them; indeed, most Russian men, in my opinion, seem to believe that their rudeness is a sign of masculinity.

And the latest species of the Russian male boor is the most obnoxious of them all: the so-called New Russians, whose excesses and vulgarities often make anyone in their company cringe with embarrassment.

Dennis Pennington