SOME balance would be welcome in the current UK coverage of the Ukraine situation ("Ukraine slates Defence Secretary over ‘appeasement’ comparison", The Herald, February 14). You would think that massive, threatening military exercises were something only the Russians did.

Let's take just the past two years and see what Nato has been doing. The Defender Europe exercise in 2020 brought 20,000 US troops across the Atlantic. US B-52 bombers entered Ukraine air space for the first time. There were simulated bomb raids around Kaliningrad as a test for destroying Russian air-defence systems. In August and September US nuclear weapon carriers flew at least 18 times to the Russian borders. It has been claimed that this is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War.

Steadfast Defender 2021 was planned to be the largest Nato exercise in Europe in 25 years. It had to be scaled back because of Covid but still involved thousands of US troops and major naval and air exercises in the Black Sea.

I don't suppose the US would be too happy about having Russian bases in Canada or Mexico if these countries decided to be Russian allies. Remember Cuba. US hostility and sanctions still exist 60 years later.

The Russians were given assurances that if they co-operated with the reunification of Germany, there would not be Nato expansion to their borders. That didn't last long. Having neutral status has not disadvantaged Austria, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland. Formalising that status for the Ukraine and Georgia would help us stabilise Europe.

Isobel Lindsay, Biggar.

* I AM no expert on international affairs and, like many others, am concerned about the growing tensions in Ukraine. My late father was a PoW in Poland who was liberated by the Red Army and was with them for a while until transferred to a British unit. They were assigned English-speaking Russian officers as liaison, and I recall my father saying that the Russians were adamant that their mother country would never again be attacked and in making that a reality there would be a buffer between them and Western Europe.

Given the huge loss of life and extreme hardship the Russians experienced in the Second World War, this is understandable. Maybe understanding this might aid diplomatic efforts to prevent an invasion of Ukraine?

Duncan Sooman, Milngavie.


ONE former British politician who is remarkably silent during the Ukrainian stand-off is Tony Blair. It's almost 20 years since he told the House of Commons that the UK was under threat by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. That led to the "Coalition of the Willing" invasion of Iraq: initially a stunning success, with Baghdad subjected to Donald Rumsfeld's Shock and Awe, and Saddam's regime put to flight. As we know, governing postwar Baghdad was quite another matter.

A more pertinent precedent for Vladimir Putin's present threatened invasion was his crushing of Chechen rebels: a much smaller territory within agreed Russian borders, the Chechens were still able to carry out terrorist attacks and hostage-taking in Moscow.

Let us suppose that Mr Putin opts for a mass invasion of Ukraine. For a start, he cannot easily seal the Polish-Ukrainian border; if his troops invade from Belarus, how do they avoid serious damage to the Chernobyl sarcophagus? Ukraine's last Moscow-sponsored puppet leader, Viktor Yanukovitch, escaped with his life following mass uprisings in 2014; Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko seems to be equally unpopular.

Perhaps the Polish option of 1981 – after a year of Russian troops massed on their border, Polish military strong-man Wojciech Jaruzelski took power to keep Russia at bay – might be the way forward for Ukraine? Certainly this hybrid civil war, threat or reality, only serves to reopen the wounds of Stalin's imposed famine in 1930s Ukraine, as recorded in the 2019 film Mr Jones.

Graeme Orr, Neilston.


THE falling out between the SNP and the Greens over freeports was inevitable ("Greens attack SNP over £52m plan for freeports", The Herald, February 14). These two parties have vastly different agendas theoretically joined only by the desire for independence, but even that is problematic.

Nicola Sturgeon has opened a Pandora's box with her agreement for power-sharing. The Greens have minuscule public support compared to the SNP but seem to be punching well above their weight. The real problem is whilst the Greens and SNP fight amongst themselves, Scotland's public services, business interests and infrastructure are paying the price.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.


FROM among a screed of his recycled arguments against independence ("I would not meet one act of economic vandalism with another", The Herald, February 12), could Alex Cole-Hamilton please explain how a 300-year-old alliance can be any more difficult to dismantle than a 40-year-old one? It is a lazy and feeble argument which aims to scare people while carefully ignoring the fact that while the UK was a member of the EU, successive governments have aligned with a multitude of regulations and laws (such as Working Time Directive, GDPR, employees’ rights, hazardous substances and chemicals handling and many more) without any alarm or consideration about how ancient any of the rules were that they were being ditched or superseded.

Most of that work has already been done.

Gail Squires, Neilston.


IN relation to states which are prospective members of the EU, Dr Kirsty Hughes is quoted as saying “a referendum after talks are complete and before ratification of the accession treaty is the route most new members states have chosen" to demonstrate that there is public support for a country joining the EU ("SNP chiefs debate EU referendum pledge”, The Herald, February 12).

The votes in 2014 and 2016 were both in pre-legislative referendums, meaning, in practice, the choice voters were offered was to vote for or against a concept. There was no common understanding of the implications of, respectively, Scotland seceding from the UK and the UK withdrawing from the EU. This resulted in both debates being speculative in nature. Members of the public tended to accept the view of "their side" rather than being able to reach their own informed view of the issues. Lack of definitive detail also allowed both sides to decry their opponents and play the "Project Fear" card. In the case of Brexit, some who voted Leave now say that what we have ended up with is not what they voted for.

In this regard, it is instructive to consider the recent flare-up over pension entitlement in an independent Scotland. Many of those in favour of secession claim that, post-independence, individuals living in Scotland who have made sufficient National Insurance payments have an ongoing entitlement to a state pension paid for by the government of the remaining UK. Those who question the economics of independence consider this ridiculous on the basis that a foreign country is not going to raise revenue from its taxpayers to pay pensions to Scots. The Fraser of Allander Institute, seen as authoritative on this matter, is reduced to effectively sitting on the fence, commenting that the issue is "both more complex and more uncertain than either side might claim" and it "would become a matter for wider negotiations". How can a voter make an informed decision on that basis?

It can’t be sensible that something as significant as Scotland leaving the Union is determined by a 50% plus one result in a referendum held before the detail of the implications of a decision to leave has been determined. Surely we ought to follow the route that most states have taken when joining the EU and have a referendum after talks are complete and before ratification of the independence treaty?

George Rennie, Inverness.


REGARDING an independent Scotland rejoining the EU: what nobody seems to consider is our contribution to the EU budget, as an oil-rich state. This is a new situation brought about by the explosion in gas prices, which could go on for decades if Russia switches its gas exports from Europe to China.

On paper we would become a large net contributor to the EU budget, helping to rescue near-bankrupt Italy and pay for new investment in Eastern Europe and Balkan countries. Voters would instead be conned into thinking we would get a cornucopia of EU investment like Eire did in the 1980s. Far from it.

Worse still, we would no longer get the large rebate (more than 30 per cent) that Margaret Thatcher negotiated. These are very big sums of money that voters care about. Remember that the 2016 referendum turned on the infamous slogan about the size of weekly EU contributions, painted on the side of a bus.

Peter Gray, Aberdeen.

Read more: It could easily take 20 years for Scotland to rejoin the EU