Letters: Cold War bogeyman is back, and rhetoric hots up

These letters appear in the Saturday 8th March edition of the Independent

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Many thanks to Mary Dejevsky for her columns on the Ukraine crisis that provide a commonsense, factual antidote to the comic-book commentaries elsewhere in the media. It seems that we always need a bogeyman – and happily unearth Cold War and even 19th-century stereotypes of Russia to fit the bill.

standards dominating the current rhetoric are staggering: never mind the Iraq parallel, how can one side (the unelected new Crimean authorities) be described as anti-constitutional when the other (the equally unelected Ukrainian interim government, replete with far-right ministers) is held up as a paragon of democracy?

There seems to be a widening disconnect between commentators’ inflammatory words and the film we see on our TV screens  showing not much happening on the ground.

Rod Chapman, Sarlat, France

Writing on the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia, Mary Dejevsky is wrong to assert that “an independent EU report found that Georgia ‘started it’ and Russia’s action was a response” (7 March).

The EU’s report, written by the Swiss diplomatist Heidi Tagliavini, confirmed that the Georgian action “was only the culminating point of a long period of increasing tensions, provocations and incidents . . . there are a number of reports and publications, including of Russian origin, indicating the provision by the Russian side of training and military equipment to South Ossetian and Abkhaz forces prior to the August 2008 conflict. Additionally there seems to have been an influx of volunteers or mercenaries from the territory of the Russian Federation to South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel and over the Caucasus range in early August 2008”.

Are we not seeing something similar in east and south Ukraine? Traditional Russian tactics seek to create a climate of tension with small-scale infiltrations in order to provoke a reaction that then justifies use of full-scale force. 

Watching Russia Today broadcasts from east and south Ukraine one sees a worrying ratcheting up of rhetoric not dissimilar to that used by Milosevic in the late 1980s as he denounced any move to independence from Serb domination. War in or over Crimea or the Donetsk industrial heartlands may seem absurd, but so did war in the Balkans 25 year ago. Policy planners should be prepared for all contingencies now that Putin has lost Kiev.

Denis MacShane, London SW1

Roger Blassberg (letter, 5 March) is concerned that the legitimate president of Ukraine was deposed. My impression was that the man had taken it upon himself to run away, leaving behind his grotesque Disneyworld palace and collections of luxury cars etc, objects that his dirt-poor subjects can gaze upon as they contemplate state bankruptcy. 

And the writer hopes that the Russians will continue to act with restraint in safeguarding their vital interests, a policy that embraces the deployment of thousands of Russian troops in a sovereign state, their faces hidden and their uniforms stripped of insignia. Some restraint!

Ian Bartlett, East Molesey, Surrey

I expect we shall be told, some way down the road, that “in hindsight” the EU could have acted differently. I should like to state that – as of today – it is quite clear that the EU has decided that the Crimea is going to Russia; it’s not worth fighting over; better this way than to take on the Russians.

And the answer to Kissinger’s question – “Who do I phone when I want to get in touch with Europe?” – is simple:  nobody – the phone is off the hook (and bugged anyway).

Paul Wingrove, Carshalton, Surrey

Why big business gets a bad name

Preceding Chris Blackhurst’s article bemoaning the anti-big business stance of some Labour MPs (5 March) there was the piece on Glencore Xtrata’s board awarding themselves $500m for one year’s work. Ivan Glasenberg the CEO, was clearly not happy with his $10bn share valuation and felt compelled to award himself a $182m dividend for his work in 2013.

Such obscene corporate greed is turning more than Labour MPs against “big business”. Perhaps The Independent could calculate what the Glencore Xtrata’s board’s shares and dividends equate to in numbers of miners at their average wage.

Ian Dunlop, Staplecross, East Sussex

We need to get a grip on immigration

The subject of immigration is becoming toxic, as BBC1’s noisy Question Time on 6 March made clear, and politicians need to get a grip on it.

Yes, of course Britain has a tradition of welcoming immigrants. Yes, of course immigrants want a better life. Yes, of course immigrants contribute to the economy and the life of the nation. Few would deny any of this, but, in the rush to condemn their opponents as xenophobes, racists or worse, those who support uncontrolled immigration seem to think that simply repeating these self-evident truths clinches their argument and provides a sensible solution to the practical problems caused by immigration.

Not once, in either The Independent or elsewhere, have I read or heard supporters of open-door immigration explain how this country can hope to ease the massive pressure on schools and hospitals and the demand for housing that immigration is now creating, beyond some vague notion that we must provide more services, create more jobs and build more houses, as though these things can be plucked off the shelf. The scale of the task is truly enormous.

Nor have I heard a hint of apology from these people for their enthusiastic support of a selfish policy that bleeds skilled and productive talent from poor countries, like Romania and Bulgaria, that can ill afford a mass exodus from their workforce.

D Stewart, London N2

I would have thought that it was obvious that immigration boosts the economy, as more people must mean more spending. However immigration is also one of the causes of our rising population, and that is where the discussion should take place.

Do we want to live in a country of 70, 80 or even 100 million, with the consequent loss of open space?

Rob Edwards, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Police: only a Royal Commission will do

In the light of Thursday’s disturbing statement by the Home Secretary, many will feel that what is now needed is a Royal Commission on the Police. There have been so many worrying issues emerging in recent months concerning the constabulary that it would seem that nothing less than a full, root-and-branch review is required.

Andrew McLuskey, Staines, Middlesex

So Theresa May is shocked at the corruption and cover-up in the Met. What planet has she been living on exactly?  This is another in a long line of police abuses against the communities they are supposed to serve.

If the Home Secretary now wishes to act decisively and with meaning she should end the blight to community relations that is stop-and-search. This has become both the symbol and the most oppressive mechanism of the racist policing of Black and Asian youth for the best part of 40 years. It should go.

Dr Mick Wilkinson, Lecturer in ‘Race’ and  Social Justice,  School of Social Sciences, University of Hull

Reforms in the energy markets

Ofgem is singlemindedly focused on its statutory objective of protecting the interests of consumers, with far-reaching, effective initiatives now making this market simpler, clearer and fairer. Claims to the contrary, including that in your editorial on 1 March, bear no relation to reality.

We have now introduced the most radical set of reforms to the energy retail market since competition began, and consumers are already benefiting from simpler choices because of our ban on complex tariffs. November and December showed the highest switching rates ever.

We have also published reforms to open up the wholesale power market by requiring the largest energy companies to post transparent prices for wholesale electricity and trade fairly with independent suppliers. This, together with our retail market reforms, will make sure that competition bears down as intensely as possible on prices for consumers.

Rachel Fletcher, Senior Partner, Ofgem, London SW1

Hindu God in the wrong role

Anne Keleny is mistaken to believe that Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum is a temple to the creator god Vishnu. Brahma is the creator god, and the earth is the temple to Brahma. Vishnu is the sustainer god in the Hindu triumvirate. The Maharajah of Travancore (obituary, 5 March) certainly helped sustain the wealth of the temple while he was alive.

Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands

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