August 17, 2002 - Naples Daily News: Guest Editorial: Nyet to the Peace Corps

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By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, August 17, 2002 - 11:54 am: Edit Post

Guest Editorial: Nyet to the Peace Corps





Read and comment on this guest editorial from the Naples Daily News about Russia's decision to decline to renew the visas for 30 of the 64 U.S. Peace Corps volunteers that says that foreign companies planning to invest in Russia might want to take this arbitrary decision into account. The Editorial proposes that rather than expelling the Peace Corps, Moscow should send over an equal number of young Russians to serve in AmeriCorps. Read the piece at:

Guest editorial: Nyet to the Peace Corps*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



Guest editorial: Nyet to the Peace Corps

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Scripps Howard News Service

For the bizarre and mysterious reasons that so often confound outsiders, Russia has declined to renew the visas for 30 of the 64 U.S. Peace Corps volunteers there, meaning they will have to leave midway through their tours.

Because of this shortsighted and dare we say? stupid decision, the Peace Corps has canceled plans to send another 62 volunteers. And the matter has risen to the level of talks between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov with no resolution.

Foreign companies planning to invest in Russia might want to take into account this arbitrary decision, whose origins for the moment are lost within Russia's erratic and impenetrable bureaucracy. Russia has traditionally been suspicious of foreigners, but 64 volunteers in a population of 145 million are hardly likely to infect the body politic.

Fragmentary explanations have been floated in the Russian press, but they don't make a whole lot of sense.

Most of the volunteers teach English, and one anonymous critic said they were unqualified and inexperienced. But the schools contacted by reporters say the volunteers are excellent teachers and their Russian principals very much want them to stay.

Another complained that the Americans spoke little or no Russian. There may be something to that, but kicking them out after only one year is no way to improve their language skills.

Somebody named Sergei Sorokin complained to Izvestia that the Peace Corps had sent "former cooks, cyclists and Mormon priests" and "former officers of the American security services" to teach English. Sorokin was identified only as a law-enforcement officer. Frankly, he sounds like a nut. Perhaps Izvestia can go back and make comrade Sorokin prove his charges.

Ousting the Peace Corps would be unfortunate for Russia. Living as everyday citizens in everyday society, the volunteers gain a rare insight into the culture, and on their return to the United States they can be effective advocates and explainers of their former hosts.

One plausible reason for denying the visas is embarrassment. Parts of Russia are in really bad shape, and the volunteers get an unvarnished view of how really bad it can be. Another is that the presence of the Peace Corps, associated as it is with Third World countries, is a humiliating reminder of how far Russia has fallen.

If so, here's how to deal with it. Rather than expelling the Peace Corps, Moscow should send over an equal number of young Russians to serve in AmeriCorps. They'll get a gritty view of America's struggle with urban and rural poverty and a chance to do some real good. Everybody could benefit.



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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Reports; Speaking Out; Peace Corps - Overseas Programs; COS - Russia

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