David Ignatius was right on the money in "Who Robbed Russia?" [op-ed, Aug. 25]. The answer: the Russian oligarchs, mostly former Communist nomenklatura members. But who set them up? The U.S. government.

Mr. Ignatius cites recent "Russiagate" articles. John Lloyd wrote last month in the New York Times Magazine that President Boris Yeltsin, whom "we in the West supported, became worse than the Communists we helped him to overthrow." Robert Kaiser quotes former U.S. diplomats in Moscow to the effect that high U.S. officials, led by Vice President Albert Gore, ignored information on the corruption of Russian bureaucrats, as long as the Russians swore by "reforms" ["Pumping Up the Problem," op-ed, Aug. 15].

The United States promoted "privatization" in the name of market reforms. In reality, Russia's resources went to criminal money launderers. Wittingly or not, the U.S. government became their accomplice. By wasting billions of taxpayers' dollars, the United States defeated the purpose of its assistance to Russia. Mr. Ignatius is right that "the Clinton administration squandered one of the most precious assets -- the goodwill of the Russian people."

Oh, were it only Russia! A recent United Nations report says that post- communist reforms have been calamitous for a vast swath of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, leading to widespread poverty, alarming drops in life expectancy, widening inequalities between the sexes, falling investment in education, the collapse of public health, and the spread of disease, crime and violence.

For the United States, in the midst of its economic boom, to emerge as the chief sponsor of misery in the world is not only obscene; it defeats our national purpose.



Russian American Goodwill Association


Too bad Joe McCarthy isn't around to enjoy the new political game of gotcha called "who lost Russia?" David Ignatius even raises the stakes a bit by asking, "Who robbed Russia?" And the reader gets help in guessing the answer with the subhead: "Did Al Gore know about the massive lootings?" Better search the vice president's shoes to see if he is smuggling diamonds.

No surprise that according to a front-page article ["Gore Faces Ticklish Issue on Russian Corruption," Aug. 27], Steve Forbes and George W. Bush have taken up the cry. As the candidates with the least amount of foreign affairs experience, they wouldn't miss a chance to turn the vice president's record of public service into a liability.

Clearly, Russia is in a mess, but does it automatically follow that the United States is to blame? Of course not. Russia lost itself, and it will have to find itself. Western efforts can influence the course of events only marginally, and not all that we have done in Russia was unhelpful. But what fun to pin the blame on Vice President Gore, who dared to try to make one of the world's most dangerous problems a little less so.