Re “‘This Is War’” [May 19]: We do not quite believe that our President has been extraordinarily smart or knowledgeable. Vladimir Putin is getting all the political advantages simply because of the White House’s growing mellowness and uncertainty. Moreover, Europe seems to prefer making some big hollow noise to actually deploying any major move. Putin did not use force to annex Crimea—most Crimeans of Russian origin want to be part of Russia. Nor would he invade or occupy Ukraine, for he could just sit and wait for another referendum. Chances are Ukraine, especially eastern Ukraine, would wish to be embraced by Moscow again. Whether Putin will morph into the new Czar of Russia remains to be seen.
There is one thing that I do not understand: Putin and those who make common cause with him repeatedly label so-called enemies as fascists. Surely, modern-day Russia under Putin’s presidency is a classic example of a fascist state. It is a totalitarian regime bent on powerful and continuing nationalism with a strong emphasis on the cult of the leader. There is a mutually beneficial relationship between government and business and a classic emphasis on enhancing the power of the military. Basic human rights are frequently ignored, the media are effectively controlled, and cronyism and corrupt activities are rampant. Perhaps it would be appropriate to redirect the appellation “fascist” at Putin’s Russia.
Look Who’s Talking
Yair Lapid is right to highlight the schizoid behavior of the united Palestinian government—you can’t have one faction talking peace while another is firing rockets into southern Israel [“A Final Agreement Is Still Possible,” May 19]. Saeb Erekat writes that the present stalemate has “little to do with Hamas,” when clearly the opposite is the case [“Israel Has Run Out of Excuses,” May 19].
While I enjoyed the contrast between the views of Erekat and Lapid, I found Lapid’s comments disingenuous, especially the supposed “shock” of Hamas’ reconciliation, which surely was a precondition of the agreement. With the Israeli government’s inclusion of senior ministers from the extremist settlers movement, it seems that Erekat can justly challenge Lapid’s veracity with his own final statement: “With whom exactly are we talking?”
Minding the Gap
Re “Bridging the Wealth Gap” [May 19]: Michael Schuman’s analysis and suggestions on how to tackle inequity are realistic and could easily be put into practice. In the long run, democracy will not survive if the wealth gap becomes wider and wider, as history has taught us.
Call to Action
Re “Beyond Nigeria” [May 19]: It’s refreshing that the Chibok kidnapping could awaken the conscience of the world, I just doubt if it’s enough to resurrect the dead conscience of the generally inept and corrupt African leaders.
Boko Haram has done itself no favors by this capture of young girls, to be sold into slavery, as its leader has threatened. This episode portrays Islam, a great religion, in the worst possible light, which embarrasses most of its followers worldwide.
Wait and See
Re “The Italian Job”[may 19]: The jury is out on whether transforming a small part of Florence into a pedestrian zone qualifies Matteo Renzi and his mostly unproven team to resolve Italy’s main issue: the dramatic loss of productivity and competitiveness that the country has suffered. Italians have seen countless disappointing politicians over the years. Don’t blame Italians if they brace for the worst while continuing to hope for a halfway positive outcome.
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