To the Editor:

Lee S. Wolosky ("Putin's Plutocrat Problem," March/April 2000) is misguided in his analysis of contemporary Russian economics and politics, and his policy recommendations would damage American, as well as Russian, interests. He expounds the simplistic notion that a small group of businessmen, myself among them, dominates Russia's economics and politics. He asserts that members of this supposed group -- some of them, like me, heads of oil companies -- stand in the way of Russia's transition to markets and democracy. To the group, he attributes fraud, misappropriation, malfeasance, and larceny, and he finds this threatens American values, jeopardizes Western oil supplies, and puts international peace and security at risk.

Wolosky recommends that the West should treat the so-called plutocrats as pariahs, refuse to do business with them, deny them visas, and pressure the Russian government to renationalize their oil companies and reprivatize them to, presumably, more worthy individuals.

He effectively is calling for the United States to wage economic war against Russian businesses at a time when the political relationship between the two countries remains strained and is at a delicate juncture. Moreover, policy based on Wolosky's recommendations runs a very serious risk of discouraging real investors pursuing significant opportunities in Russia that are good for the West and good for Russia.

Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky

Chairman, Yukos Oil Company