Rebuilding the Russian Economy

I read with dismay "Why West Is Bailing Out Russia" (July 16), on the IMF loan to Russia and its description of the Russian economy. It strikes me as a simplistic view of a complex situation.

While it is true that in Russia the most powerful business people wield influence at the highest levels, this strikes me as little different from situations elsewhere in the world. We need only read the recent news from Italy or consider the accusations facing Tony Blair and Bill Clinton to realize this situation, which is portrayed as extraordinary in Moscow, is in fact an unfortunate, part of democratic politics worldwide. In Russia, the influence these men wield is no greater than elsewhere.

It is important to note that the so-called oligarchs are playing a valuable role in the economy. The bigger players are naturally taking on the challenge of creating more rational and therefore more profitable companies, in many cases by acquisition. (A situation, again, with parallels in the West.) Most important, they are engaged in this necessary work alongside foreign investment funds. Western players and Russian entrepreneurs are completely independent of the oligarchs.

For Russian industry today, the greatest challenge is to provide stability and lower real rates of interest. It is difficult to imagine that this policy is not fully supported by the oligarchs: Why, then, is it not law? If they are indeed in complete control of the government, why does it not heed their fundamental desires for much of the reform program?

Russia's reformers face many challenges. First and foremost, they must learn how to encourage Russia's large population to take cash from under its mattresses and put it into the economy. Additionally, a streamlined and simplified tax code - again, a goal of the oligarchs and yet not a reality - is a required element in any real recovery.

Russia today has an impressive, aggressive young team of reformers, a transformed economy, and many talented entrepreneurs working hard to build a modern country.

Daniel Wolfe


Chief Operating Officer, Troika Dialog, a Russian investment firm

No such Turkish air base

In "Eager for Closer Israel Ties, Turkey Turns Up the Charm," (July 10) there is an allegation that "Ankara is building an air base in eastern Turkey exclusively for Israel's use." This is simply baseless and totally unfounded. No such base exists in Turkey, and there are no plans to build one.

It is true that the relations between Turkey and Israel continue to develop on the basis of mutual interests. However, this cooperation has no "hidden agendas" as claimed by certain circles. In fact, Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, in his recent visit to Israel, made it amply clear that Turkey would not allow its ties with Israel to be used against any other country.

Baki Ilkin


Ambassador, Turkish Embassy

Speculating about McGovern

I usually look for Godfrey Sperling's column as soon as I've scanned the front page. He is enlightening and entertaining. It rather took me aback when he wrote about the virtues of George McGovern in "'What If' Lingers Over a Good Man" (June 23). No doubt McGovern is as great as Mr. Sperling says, but speculation about what a wonderful president he might have been is a waste of time. We could conjecture that the legacy of Vietnam defeated him instead of Richard Nixon.

But we can't go back and change the past. We need less speculation and more level-headed analysis of current situations to see what we can do about them.

M.L. Wallace

Menlo Park, Calif.

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