NATO: Russia-Repellent

The Dec. 13 opinion-page article, "The Dangerous Game of Expanding NATO to the East," tries to show Russia's aversion to NATO expansion into Central Europe by saying that America would likewise feel encircled if Russia created a security alliance with Western Europe and Canada.

But have we forgotten the means by which the Soviet Union built its "alliance" in that part of Europe, and forgotten the staggering cost in human and material losses the alleged allies paid? If Central and East European nations desire to be included in NATO, it is because they hope to prevent a recurrence of such losses. These countries neither want nor foresee the defense of their lands by Western troops. Memories of the value of their alliances (notably Czechoslovakia's and Poland's) with the Western powers before World War II remain fresh. Munich and Yalta violated all such resolutions and made possible long years of harsh communist rule.

Belonging to NATO does not guarantee the security of countries once forcibly included in the Soviet bloc, and few of them rely on Western military help in case of war. They hope, however, that their membership in NATO may act to restrain any future hostile aspirations from the East, should such aspirations once again emerge to threaten world peace.

Anna R. Dadlez

Saginaw, Mich.

Pentagon's priorities

In "Behind Current Headlines: The Military's Real Problem," Dec. 31, the authors suggest that United States armed forces are experiencing serious morale problems that threaten the effectiveness of our forces. Predictably, they suggest these problems "can only be addressed by committing more resources to our armed forces." The authors sadly seem to have come to the conclusion that the only way to solve problems is to throw money at them.

No doubt the problems are real and pressing. Nevertheless, as they point out, "How funds are spent is as important as how much." Apparently, though, in calling for more resources, they have forgotten their own insight. Though they provide several examples of the detrimental impact of reduced training, personnel, and maintenance spending, they cite only figures for reduced research and development (R&D) and procurement (the bulk of which is spent on advanced weapons systems rather than on materiel for existing units).

The poor conditions to which the authors bring our attention are due more to misplaced priorities within the defense budget than to the overall decline in defense spending. None of the "big ticket" R&D or procurement items - such as the Navy's new aircraft carrier or the Air Force's B-2 strategic bombers and new F-22 stealth fighters - will address the morale problems that the authors identify.

Morale is a serious problem and is central to the effectiveness of our armed forces. Unfortunately, the authors' concern seems at best misplaced as they call for increased spending while ignoring the priorities within the defense budget that are more important causes of shortages in training, equipment, and salaries for our men and women in uniform.

David Johnson

Rockville, Md.

Straight talk on black English

As I made my holiday rounds these past few weeks, almost everyone I met had something to volunteer about ebonics in the Oakland schools.

All of a sudden, so many people were concerned about Oakland's children. I read your Dec. 23 Page 1 article, "Black English in Oakland Schools," and I mean to get copies made.

Thank you for your even-handed presentation of the position on all sides of the issue. Next time I meet someone sputtering and raging on about the certain damage to be caused by the recognition of black English, I'll hand her the article.

Franz Snyder

Berkeley, Calif.

Letters for publication must include your mailing address. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail (200 words max.) to OPED@CSPS.COM.

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