The benefits Russia has to offer

Though "He rode in on a tank, out on era" (Jan. 3) summarized President Boris Yeltsin's rise and fall as president of Russia was informative, I find the overall attitude about Russia presented in the article quite oversimplified and typical of the press coverage today. One salient illustration of this is the comment in the article that Russia is paid attention to because of its "rusting nuclear arsenal." Though it is likely that is the main reason for the West's patience and perseverance with Russia, our leaders are also aware of the other aspects of Russia's importance for our future. Consider:

*Russia's well-educated, and intelligent population and its overall resources - people, raw materials, and intelligence.

*Russia's prospect as a viable market and lucrative future trading partner.

*Russia's historical ties with the Middle East and with certain eastern European peoples and nations, which despite Russia's poverty today, may still play important role in international politics

All of these factors, not to mention the fact that the US paid billions of dollars during the 20th century to bring down Soviet rule and communism, point to Russia as a serious concern for US foreign policy and for peace and stability in the world.

Eleanor Gorman San Francisco, Calif.

Iraq sanctions questioned

In the opinion article "Saddam outlasts the UN" (Dec. 29), the author notes the creation of the new and weakened counterpart of UNSCOM, called UNMOVIC, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. The writer criticizes the new inspection modality because it is "hobbled by UN jargon and folded into the UN bureaucracy."

The article then criticizes Saddam for not accepting the proposal even though it provides him with unlimited oil exports and grants the Iraqi people more humanitarian aid.

The point the author seems to miss is that the same limitations of UN jargon and bureaucracy that weaken UNMOVIC make it almost impossible for sanctions to be lifted anytime soon. That is Saddam's real desire, not being able to sell more oil so that the world can feel more secure about their oil reserves and the price they pay at the pump!

F. Nahab Riverside, Calif.

Suggestions for major religious events

Your selection of the ten major religious events in the West in "A thousand years of religion" section left out three of the most significant religious events that helped shape the course of Western and world civilization:

*Conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great to Christianity with the renaming of Byzantium to Constantinople, the second Christian capital to "heathen" Rome (330). It made possible the later "Great Schism" between Western and Eastern Christianity in 1054, which you cited as the No. 1 event.

*Papal (1233) and Spanish Inquisitions (1481), which established torture as a formal instrument of governmental policy.

*Trial of Galileo in 1633, where the papacy declared war between religion and science that continues today in the realm of the life sciences.

James W. Prescott San Diego, Calif.

Poems that reduce you to jelly

Thank you so much for the Kid Space poems (Dec. 28). Each one is an inspiration for its close-focus perceptions and admirable economy of expression. Laura Perry's "Wild Stallion" reduced me to tearful jelly!

Priscilla H. Bailey Chatham, Mass.

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