Readers’ letters: Will we be remembered as the new appeasers?


Ukrainians hold a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine outside Downing Street

Certainly Russia’s conflict with Ukraine shows similarities with Hitler’s occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 which saw him break a solemn pledge he had made after the carving up of the Czech territory of Sudetenland – the appeasers’ “peace in our time” pledge.

Poet Louis MacNeice caught the sense of disillusion with appeasement which was the consequence of Hitler’s grab of Czechoslovakia: “Abandoned, forgotten, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. Save my skin and damn my conscience.”

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The tide of public opinion turned against the appeasement policy which had been favored by the UK government. Historians wonder why it took so long for the UK to see through Hitler and his fascist allies. AJP Taylor wrote: “By treating the dictators as gentlemen they ceased to be gentlemen themselves.”

We have similar questions now. Why has the government accepted Russian money as funding from people close to Putin despite the murders of dissidents by the Russian government in our own neighborhoods? Why has the UK been the chosen outlet for Russian dirty money? Has Putin just changed his spots overnight or have we seen a steady erosion of international sovereign states by him previously?

The label “new appeasers” may yet be used by historians to describe the. role of our politicians in the potential failure of collective security in our time. A lot will depend on how transparently this government chooses to apply tough sanctions. The omens of the last few days do not inspire me with confidence.

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If readers are wondering why the crisis in Ukraine has come about, they need to look no further than Munich. No, not the 1938 conference between Chamberlain and Hitler, but the Yalta 1945 version, which could be described as “Munich on steroids”.

That conference, which took place from 4-11 February, 1945, set the stage for not only the subsequent Cold War but probably the Third World War as well. The agreement there was between a complete terrorist, Joseph Stalin, a complete moral coward, Winston Churchill, and a complete idiot, Franklin D Roosevelt, who was recorded as writing that he could handle Stalin better than Churchill or any other British or American official.

This Sunday is the anniversary of Churchill’s speech to get a vote of confidence and ratification of the Yalta agreement in parliament. To parliament’s eternal disgrace, they gave it to him.

The war in Ukraine will be a total rerun of the Second World War, with the Ukrainians being egged on to fight just as the Poles were in 1939 with next to no help, only to be stabbed in the back by their “allies” after being sported, starved and having their country partitioned.

The questions we should all be asking, if we care about the future at all, are: Will the survivors of the invasion of Ukraine be given an “amnesty”, as the Poles were in 1941, and will Putin build a “Palace of Culture” ” in Kiev bigger than the one the Russians built in Warsaw?

H Belda, Penicuik, MIdlothian

Ghost hunters may be interested to learn that anyone visiting the American military cemetary in Hamm, Luxembourg at midnight may hear the disembodied voice of General George Patton call: “I told you schmucks what the Russians would do the moment we disarmed even if they gave up Communism, didn’t I?

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

UK government sanctions announced against Russia for its Ukraine incursion (Scotsman, 23 February) are laughably timid – asset freezes on five Russian banks and three rich Russians. The EU tougher ones announced, including the suspension of the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline.

The close ties between the Tory Party and Russian oligarchs, all friends of Putin, is well documented. Lyubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former Russian deputy finance minister, is a regular and generous donor, as is former arms dealer Alexander Temerko. We learned last week that Boris Johnson has allowed a billionaire advisory board, including Chernukhin, access to senior ministers and advisors during the pandemic.

The major role the City of London plays in laundering dirty money, much of it Russian, is also well documented.

And the UK government has refused to enforce its own anti-money laundering laws, allowing the dirty money to emerge “cleansed” usually by buying up London luxury property and architectural assets, turning London into a haven for organized crime.

The Tories are afraid to bite the hand that feeds it, that’s how deep the corruption runs.

And lest we forget, in 2014 David Cameron asked Putin for his help in stopping Scottish independence.

The UK government piously claims to defend a nation’s right to self-determination, as long as it’s not Scotland’s, but its actions tell an entirely different story.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Imperial Russia’s invasion of independent Ukraine has just killed “stone-dead” any prospect of Scottish independence in a 2023 referendum.

Scots will not vote for an independence movement which wishes to remove nuclear weapons from the Clyde.

There would have been no invasion by Russia if Ukraine had not given up its nuclear arsenal in the 1990s. Ukrainians must bitterly regret giving up their nuclear weapons.

Jim Stewart, Musselburgh, East Lothian

With the understandable anger over the Russian intervention in Ukraine, it is important that we do not diminish our own freedoms as we support those of others. The call for the shutting down of Russian state broadcaster RT, by the Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer and less directly by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Scotsman, 24 February), is a case in point.

This goes a lot further than simply condemning former First Minister, Alex Salmond for hosting a program on it and calling for his removal from the Privy Council. We should be prepared to countenance the widest range of views and not insult the intelligence of viewers by dismissing RT as “propaganda”. A regulator – Ofcom – exists to monitor poor quality and exceptionally biased broadcasting. Its views will be important but should be informed by liberalism and the widest possible view of international affairs.

In times of war there is always concern from politicians about the way the media portrays the conflict. This was certainly true in the case of the Iraq and Falklands battles.

Even as far back as the Second World War Winston Churchill was considering closing down the Daily Mirror because of a cartoon he felt would cause serious offence. Home Secretary Herbert Morrison even ordered a raid on the print works of the then Daily Worker because he deemed some of its views as unpatriotic. It was due to the vigilance of then prominent journalists and MPs like Michael Foot and Aneurin Bevan, and others, that the Press remained as robust as was possible in times of war.

Today, broadcasting outlets are multiple and complex. That should not prevent us from standing up for principles like freedom of the Press and broadcasting, and tolerance of opinions with which we strongly disagree. To do otherwise would simply play into the hands of the dictators we oppose and show that we are just as capable of authoritarian attitudes as they are.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Considering two eleven prominent Scottish politicians are, or have been, employed by RTV, widely believed to be a blatant mouthpiece for Vladimir Putin and Kremlin propaganda, when, we must ask, will we be hearing condemnation from them on the situation in Ukraine?

Many are stunned that a former leading Scottish nationalist and former First Minister could be in any way associated with the brutal invasion of a much smaller and “independent” country. What could have possessed him to agree to appear on such a channel? Demands that he lose his membership of the UK’s Privy Council are more than justified.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Ian Moir’s letter (“Partition plan”, 24 February) – suggesting a Yes/No split in the upcoming independence referendum should result in any “No” voting region of Scotland remaining part of the (already disfunctional) UK – is an interesting experiment in “moving the goal posts to suit my latest agenda”.

Had such a process been in place for the EU referendum Scotland (including Mr Moir’s Dumfries and Galloway region), London, a number of England’s regions, and Northern Ireland would still be in the EU.

Partition brought Ireland nothing but conflict. Let’s not even consider replicating such a process in Scotland.

Ian Waugh, Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway

The report from the Auditor General (Scotsman, 24 February), that the NHS is unsustainable, comes as no surprise. In a European league table, we would be near the bottom, with funding being a major problem.

As it is funded by the taxpayer, major rises are needed, or cash must come from the private sector (or both). Sadly, no political party will stand up and say this – they have all failed in telling us that the funding model is broken, in telling us the truth. The outlook is depressing.

William Ballantine, Bo’ness, West Lothian

We welcome your thoughts. Write to [email protected] including name, address and phone number – we won’t print full details. Keep letters under 300 words, with no attachments, and avoid ‘Letters to the Editor/Readers’ Letters’ or similar in your subject line. If referring to an article, include date, page number and heading.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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