The article ``Crucial Vote on PLO Status Nears,'' Dec. 4, mentions in passing that the United States is $430 million in arrears on dues to the United Nations. That is the truth, but not all of it. As a member of 11 UN specialized agencies, the US also owes the UN nearly $167 million in arrearages and $269 million in calendar year 1989 obligations. The US, by refusing to pay its arrearages and current dues to the UN and the specialized agencies, is endangering the survival of these precious organizations - which create a world of shared values and make international travel and commerce possible.
Paying the $1 billion is a small price for restoring the US role as a dues-paying member of the United Nations - the world's formal system of law and order. However, US citizens will not push the federal government to pay these dues unless they know about the outstanding debts. Leila M.J. Brown Athens, W.V.
What solace in alcohol In his opinion-page column ```Pause, Hear the Silence' in Russia,'' Dec. 1, John Hughes points out that only 15 percent of the Russian Orthodox churches existing prior to the revolution have been reopened. Mr. Hughes also reminds us of the various restrictions on religion that have not yet been lifted.
Hughes speaks of the many Soviet citizens who, exasperated by the harshness of their lives, have sought escape in alcoholic unconsciousness. Undoubtedly true, but what about the many thousands in the United States whose disaffection has led them to seek oblivion in alcohol and drugs?
The changes taking place in the communist world should inspire us to seek ways to correct the shortcomings in our own society, rather than to gloat complacently over the turbulence these healthy changes are causing in the Soviet Union and the East bloc. Eleanor M. Allen Montclair, N.J.
US arms in EL Salvador The article ``US Finds Path to Latin American Peace Hard to Spot,'' Nov. 27, clearly embraces the Reagan-Bush perspective on the 10-year civil war in El Salvador. It states ``that the guerrillas use noncombatants in residential neighborhoods as shields. Of the 71,000 people reported killed in the past decade in El Salvador, most have been civilians.''
In fact, the vast majority of those deaths have been at the hands of the Salvadoran military, whose bullets and bombs have been paid for by the United States since the civil war began. How can the US criticize the FMLN guerrillas for detaining ``eighty heavily-armed American Green Berets'' - American soldiers who were released unharmed by the guerrillas after 24 hours - while we continue to finance the brutality of the Salvadoran military? Jack Barbash Palo Alto, Calif.