Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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#6 - JRL 7009
The Christian Science Monitor
January 8, 2003
Russian accusations obscure Peace Corps legacy

Regarding your Jan. 2 article "Spies keep busy as ever, quietly": The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified our embassy last week that Russia would withdraw from the agreement establishing the conditions for Peace Corps activities because the services were no longer necessary, given Russia's current political and economic development. We have always made clear to the Russian government that if it decided this cooperation was no longer needed, we would relocate our volunteers where their energy, skills, and commitment could contribute.

The Peace Corps has been in Russia 10 years, contributing to its development as a free-market democracy through English-language education, business education, and small-business development. More than 700 volunteers have worked in more than 50 communities throughout Russia, teaching more than 26,000 students. The real legacy of the Peace Corps in Russia is obscured by allegations that volunteers spied. Those allegations are outrageous, untrue, and harmful to the important and difficult work carried on by volunteers worldwide. The services provided by the Peace Corps were requested by the Russian Ministry of Education; volunteers were then invited by communities who valued their skills and knowledge. The volunteers, like their colleagues throughout the Peace Corps' 41-year history, believe they can make the world a better place. Their service in Russia should not be tainted by cynical accusations.

The mission of the Peace Corps is threefold: to provide the technical assistance requested by the host country, to provide an opportunity for communities to learn about the US by interacting with the volunteers, and to provide the volunteers an opportunity to learn about the host country.

The fulfillment of that mission is the legacy of the Peace Corps in Russia. It will live on in the friendships between volunteers and community residents, who have been enriched by their time together and by a deeper understanding of one another's cultures.

Alexander Vershbow
US Ambassador to Russia

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