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Opinion | Russia and Ukraine: How to Avoid a War

To the Editor:

Re “As Fears of an Invasion Grow, Diplomatic Options Remain” (news article, Jan. 25):

You report that there are diplomatic options to avoid war in Ukraine, but ask if there is room for compromise. Why should there be a compromise? Does Russia have any legitimate claims on Ukraine? If not — and I know of none — then a compromise would hand an unjustified victory to Vladimir Putin, a reward for his thuggish behavior that would encourage him to repeat it.

The only “compromise” that should be offered is a chance for him to withdraw Russian troops with some grace.

Jonathan J. Margolis
Brookline, Mass.

To the Editor:

Re “How to Retreat From Ukraine” (column, Jan. 23):

Ross Douthat is absolutely correct to say that the United States does not have the power to maintain an extension of NATO that includes Ukraine.

What is missing, however, is the interests of the Ukrainian people. I had the privilege of visiting Ukraine as a Fulbright scholar in 2003. My hosts were fervent pro-Western Ukrainian nationalists; however, they understood that Ukraine could not be a strong united country unless the considerable segment of the population that leaned toward Russia felt included. The problem with U.S. policy over the last decade or so is that we sought to exclude the pro-Russian population and turn Ukraine into a U.S. ally.

A stable solution must involve keeping Ukraine out of both NATO and the European Union and the equivalent Russia-centered blocs. Ideally, we would have favorable trade deals with both sides; a one-sided deal would be anathema to hopes for peace.

There is a model for such a solution: Finland in the 1960s and 1970s. Finns were able to have substantial political and economic freedom as long as they understood that they could not be hostile to the U.S.S.R. With a less confrontational approach by the U.S., this solution could apply to Ukraine today.

John Berg
Dorchester, Mass.
The writer is professor emeritus of government at Suffolk University.

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat urges that Europe and the United States acquiesce to Russia’s demand for a role in determining the fate of Ukraine and presumably other states in Moscow’s so-called near abroad. Europe and the U.S. should not accept this demand for a resurrection of Moscow’s Soviet-era imperial pretensions.

Vladimir Putin’s demand echoes Hitler’s insistence on Lebensraum for Nazi Germany. The West should stand firm in support of a free, democratic Ukraine.

Edmund McWilliams
White Oaks, N.M.
The writer is a retired Foreign Service officer.

To the Editor:

We can’t be sure what Vladimir Putin has in mind as he amasses his troops on the Ukrainian border, but to do it now, when the world is struggling with a pandemic that has killed millions of people, is beyond contempt.

Just when we need cooperation between countries to overcome this devastating threat, he plays a game that exploits the uncertainty and fear we live under. The threat of a possible war puts more stress on all of us.

Mariann Carlin
Walnut Creek, Calif.

To the Editor:

Absent from much of the discussion of the impending military action by Russia in Ukraine is sufficient attention to the oft proven political adage “All politics is local.”

Russia is suffering from myriad major domestic problems: gross inequality, climate catastrophes (much of the tundra ablaze), a declining birthrate and a general increase in public misery, particularly away from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

There is no better way to distract the public than a “glorious reunification” of territories widely considered to be lost parts of the motherland. Because it all makes domestic political sense, as we have learned from our own politics, it is far more likely to actually happen.

Steven Koltai
Lincolnville, Maine
The writer is a nonresident senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

To the Editor:

In “Kids’ Sense of Dread Is Normal” (Opinion, Jan. 22), Jessica Grose reflects on the pandemic and the “unanswerable questions” posed by her young daughter, particularly those about “existential crises.”

I call them the “big questions,” those questions and also insightful remarks that come from even preschool children. Too often we might dismiss their thoughts as silly and not realistic. In fact, many children’s answers are profound and beautiful in their simplicity. They remind us that we are meant to ponder the meaning of our existence.

As parents we often want to reassure our children by giving realistic answers, but actually comfort and wisdom often reveal themselves in the mysterious and more imaginative realm of our inner experience.

Young children are still close to this world. When my son was 4 he told me that when I died I would become a star and always shine down on him.

I want to encourage parents to engage with their children about the big questions; ask them what they think. Their answers are sure to amaze and inspire!

Dawn Menken
Portland, Ore.
The writer, a psychotherapist, is the author of “Raising Parents Raising Kids: Hands-On Wisdom for the Next Generation.”

To the Editor:

In “Prince Andrew Became a Liability for the Crown” (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 20), Tanya Gold writes of the Windsors that “their business is power.” What power would that be, exactly, other than the power to command worldwide attention whenever they stand up, sit down or stay put?

If the family is in business at all, it’s the business of high-end prestige, in which a ruinously compromised prince threatens to pitch the Firm into bankruptcy.

Simon Marcus
Oakland, Calif.

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