Russian accusations obscure Peace Corps legacy

Regarding your Jan. 2 article "Spies keep busy as ever, quietly": The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified our embassy last week that Russia would withdraw from the agreement establishing the conditions for Peace Corps activities because the services were no longer necessary, given Russia's current political and economic development. We have always made clear to the Russian government that if it decided this cooperation was no longer needed, we would relocate our volunteers where their energy, skills, and commitment could contribute.

The Peace Corps has been in Russia 10 years, contributing to its development as a free-market democracy through English-language education, business education, and small-business development. More than 700 volunteers have worked in more than 50 communities throughout Russia, teaching more than 26,000 students.

The real legacy of the Peace Corps in Russia is obscured by allegations that volunteers spied. Those allegations are outrageous, untrue, and harmful to the important and difficult work carried on by volunteers worldwide. The services provided by the Peace Corps were requested by the Russian Ministry of Education; volunteers were then invited by communities who valued their skills and knowledge. The volunteers, like their colleagues throughout the Peace Corps' 41-year history, believe they can make the world a better place. Their service in Russia should not be tainted by cynical accusations.

The mission of the Peace Corps is threefold: to provide the technical assistance requested by the host country, to provide an opportunity for communities to learn about the US by interacting with the volunteers, and to provide the volunteers an opportunity to learn about the host country.

The fulfillment of that mission is the legacy of the Peace Corps in Russia. It will live on in the friendships between volunteers and community residents, who have been enriched by their time together and by a deeper understanding of one another's cultures.
Alexander Vershbow
US Ambassador to Russia

Politics does get it: corporate money

In response to the Jan. 7 Opinion piece "Politics just doesn't get it": Jonathan Rowe has written a much needed commentary, but I disagree with his general conclusion. Politics gets it, all right. As people who want to have a lifetime career with prestige in office, politicians will do what it takes for reelection. If they must be bought to be reelected, they will comply; those who don't never last long. Mr. Rowe forgets that corporations have successfully attained the complete grip on government that they always wanted.

Big money in politics has all but disenfranchised anyone who isn't rich enough to buy political clout. Who will be the political ombudsman for the public when both political parties and an open press all but disappear? Now, we must think of separation of corporation and state.
Richard L. Smith
Montague, Calif.

Fulfillment in single-gender university

In response to the Dec. 30 Opinion piece "Single-gender ed: not just an alternative": I thoroughly enjoyed your article, as it described in candid detail my experiences as a graduate of a public coed high school and a private women's university.

I vividly recall being reluctant as a high school student to raise my hand in class and ask or answer a question. I did not understand the reason for my hesitancy, but within my first few weeks at Hollins University in 1989, my reluctance faded into uninhibited confidence. I attribute my personal and professional success to the single-gender experience Hollins provided.
Valerie James Abbott
Richmond, Va.

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