We should refrain from taking sides in the dispute over the downing of the Russian fighter jet by the Turkish military.
In Syria Russia is serving our best interests by fighting against the various Sunni islamist groups, including so-called Islamic State, which was responsible for the Paris atrocities. Turkey’s behaviour has been far from that of a reliable western ally. Despite the fact that Turkey has long been a security state, it has allowed its borders to remain wide open. This has led to large flows of migrants to the EU including some of the Paris terrorists. It has allowed volunteers to flow to Isis and trained terrorists to return.
Turkey is capable of military action in Syria when it suits their government. For example, their prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, admitted that, when in February a Turkish military column entered Syria to evacuate the tomb of Suleyman Shah, they had no permission from anyone.
Nor can anybody have any illusions about the islamist agenda of President Erdogan, who has long worked to dismantle the secular legacy of Kemal Ataturk.
Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future we will have to treat Turkey as at best a dubious ally.
There are two categories of despot in the world: those who are friendly or useful to the USA and those that are not. The former include any one sitting on the throne of Saudi Arabia, as well as a host of petty Latin American tyrants.
The second group includes Castro, Mugabe, Gaddafi and Assad. They are even joined by people with impeccable democratic credentials like Chavez and Morales. Their classification is based not on what they do but who and what they support. Thus Saddam Hussein belonged to the first group when he was killing Iranians, only to be demoted to the second when it turned out that the petty despots of Kuwait had more friends in Washington than he did.
Now we have Erdogan, who is supposed to be part of a grand alliance against Isis, but has continued to be downright obstructive, pursuing his personal vendetta against Assad and launching murderous bombing raids against the Kurds.
The downing of a Russian warplane was probably a deliberate act to sabotage a coalition between Nato, Russia and Iran, which offers the best chance of defeating the genocidal fanatics in Syria and Iraq.
With a sensible president in the White House for once, the logical move would be to sanction Turkey and if necessary expel that country from Nato. That will not happen because for all Obama’s virtues he heads a regime still shackled by Cold War thinking.
Thus the USA, and of course Britain, will continue to prop up a despot and support him against Russia even though his sentiments clearly lie with the people who are supposed to be the common enemy.
Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex
The shooting down of a Russian warplane has exposed deep political faultlines between Russia and the West. They are engaging in superpower rivalry, but it is more complicated than this.
There is a mutual distrust between Arabs, Turks and Europeans, stretching back to the great Arab revolution, led by Sharif Hussein Bin Ali of Mecca (great-grandfather of King Abdullah II of Jordan) when Arabs collaborated with Western allies, and helped in the dissolution of the Ottoman caliphate.
Turkish leaders are still nostalgic for the empire whose forces reached the gates of Vienna.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
The downing of the Russian plane was inexcusable. Even if it did stray into Turkish airspace, it was not an enemy aircraft by any stretch of the imagination, and the excuse given by Turkey of defending its airspace is totally unacceptable.
It is to be hoped that Turkey being in Nato does not colour the view and responses of the Prime Minister and the MoD to this appalling lack of judgement by the Turkish authorities.
Life imprisonment for dairy cows
Thank you for drawing attention to that most pernicious of farming methods, the mega-dairy (23 November).
An important objection to these industrial-sized production units is that the cows suffer a range of indignities and cruelties, denial of access to grazing being the most shocking. Coming from a farming family, I believe that cows need to graze in fields. We already exploit these animals to the full; now we are moving toward cruelly imprisoning more and more animals for the duration of their short lives.
In West Wales, the stealthy rise in factory farming is evident. There are numerous concerns associated with such developments. The disposal of vast amounts of slurry, high use of medication, hidden animal neglect, threats to the health of the soil and to the livelihood of the small, traditional farm.
Hopefully, not all is lost if awareness is raised and concerned people challenge these developments and take advantage of better alternatives. Organic dairy products are widely available and improved labelling will help people to choose milk produced by cows reared in more sustainable ways.
Your editorial (23 November) points an accusatory finger in the wrong direction. Dairy farmers can’t be blamed for finding ways to survive through development of mega-dairies if supermarkets drive down wholesale prices.
Nor are consumers blameless. Only those few shoppers who rationalise the consequences will select dearer milk when faced with a choice. Dairy farming will be yet another failed industry. And we’ll find ourselves further dependent on imports if milk production goes to the wall.
Kilnwick, East Riding of Yorkshire
I am descended from at least four generations of farm workers who spent their working lives out of doors, devotedly tending animals. The last two generations were horrified by the birth of factory farming.
This week, I stared at its latest offspring: your cover photograph of cows, kept permanently inside in a barren “mega-dairy” . I cannot think of a better advert to persuade people to buy organic milk.
I’m disappointed with your reporting of the decline of hedgehogs in the UK, in particular, headlining badgers as one of the causes (21 November).
While it’s true that badgers may occasionally predate hedgehogs, their impact on hedgehog decline is likely to be insignificant compared with the other factors mentioned in your article. Modern agricultural practices, development, and increased road traffic have a much greater effect on hedgehog populations.
I am a professional ecologist and have undertaken many badger surveys all over England and Wales, and have never once come across a predated hedgehog. As with most mammal ecology, a fair bit of my time is spent identifying the scats of various critters (ecology’s such a glamorous profession) and I have never seen the remains of hedgehog in badger dung; and believe me, I’ve seen quite a lot of it!
The Independent is usually exemplary in its reporting of environmental issues but in this case you’ve let your standards slip. Yes, hedgehogs are in decline and yes they need our help but let’s focus on the main cause – us.
I was startled by the vehemence of Andrew Neil’s denunciation of Isis on the BBC’s This Week.
He invoked a list of writers, artists and intellectuals to symbolise French culture. But many of them are unknown to the present generationr.
Modern French culture is more Gerard Depardieu than Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In place of Voltaire and Zola, we have Michel Houellebecq. One name on Neil’s list which would have been widely recognised is Zinedine Zidane, a millionaire footballer who head-butted an opponent.
And isn’t this the point? Western culture is seen by some as degenerate and in decline. To Neil and his bourgeois friends Paris is a city of light and pleasure. Not so for the inhabitants of the banlieu slums.
Newhaven, East Sussex
Grace Dent writes (Voices, 24 Nov) that “the black-tie bash is past its best” and most readers may well agree. What a pity, therefore, that you couldn’t have found a more appropriate illustration: the gaggle of gents pictured are almost all wearing the white tie that goes with full evening dress. Only the three or four cads in new-fangled dinner jackets sport black ties. Bad show!
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