President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July. (Grigory Dukor/Reuters)

I disagree with Michael Morell’s claim in his Aug. 8 op-ed, “Tough talk isn’t enough to stop Putin,” that Russian President Vladimir Putin is afraid that if the United States imposes more sanctions, the middle class in Russia will swarm into the streets to demand change. I don’t see much evidence that there is a politically active middle class in Russia that is strongly dissatisfied with the Putin regime. Mr. Putin seems to have had an 80 percent approval rating, which seems to be evidence of simple resignation to let Mr. Putin rule for as long as he wants to. All the political parties in Russia (except his) are weak and ineffective.

It probably would be more productive if the United States used whatever leverage it has to put pressure on those who have power now, e.g., the oligarchs, the military and those who are trying to direct the economy. The latter group of officials in Moscow can’t be happy with Mr. Putin and what he is doing. His policies are driving foreign investment out of Russia and burdening Russia with additional costs. For example, the state is unlikely to be able to pay the snowballing costs of the pensioners.

Wayne Sherwood, Takoma Park