THE American novelist William Faulkner stated that “There is a strange irony which lurks in events.” Six months after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, his words have a real resonance.

Then, after the halting of the Russian rush on Kiev and the sanctioning of Moscow, all the talk was of Russia’s economic and possibly military collapse, and of a palace coup to oust Putin.

Now Russia holds almost a quarter of the Ukraine, its financial reserves are at record levels, and Putin’s war has been paid for entirely by the increase in oil and gas revenues over the last six months.

Russia’s economy has been hit, but to a much lesser degree than those of the West, on whom sanctions have rebounded with a vengeance. The Russian population will not starve and freeze over the coming winter.

In contrast, we have the West – NATO/the EU – facing an even bigger economic crisis than in 2008, with the real prospect of its own people experiencing hunger, cold and death in the months ahead.

Western military aid has slowed the Russian advance but no matter what aid it gets, Ukraine cannot win this war.

As Prime Minister Orbán of Hungary said, the West’s policy on Ukraine is like a wrecked car with four flat tyres – and, he might have added, one which has run out of gas.

Ukraine is steadily being destroyed and weakened and it is doubtful if the crisis-hit, cash-strapped West will be able to reconstruct the country in any meaningful way.

It is the Iraq of the coming decades. The longer the war, the worse its destruction will be.

This, like it or not, is the reality of the situation.

Contrary to Western politicians’ and media wishful thinking, the deck has been reshuffled and the aces are in the hands of the Moscow gambler.

Russia has no need for a swift end to this war; the longer it goes on, the more the West is hurt, and the greater are Russian oil and gas revenues.

Whilst it may well have aimed for and expected a quick victory in this war, and been disappointed, the present state of attrition suits Moscow perfectly.

Realpolitik dictates two possible outcomes; either the West will dig ever deeper, and continue to pour resources into the bottomless pit of the Ukraine, and endure the consequences of its own continuing economic dislocation and the impoverishment of its own population.

Or wiser counsel will realise that the Russian-speaking areas of the Ukraine are lost, and the West will accept the defeat of its policy, as its policy aims were defeated in Syria and Afghanistan.

This view has been advanced by those diplomats like Henry Kissinger, who deal with realities not myths.

There is, of course, a third option; that NATO will directly intervene on Kiev’s behalf. That would mean World War Three and billions of deaths.

Only a madman could argue that ensuring “victory” for the kleptocrats in Kiev is worth a nuclear holocaust. But there seem to be many around who are deaf to reason and logic, or politicians who simply fear to break ranks and “bell the cat”.

And let us never forget, or ignore the fact, that had Kiev kept to the terms of the Minsk Agreements they signed in 2014 there would have been no war in the first place.

Ian R. Mitchell, Glasgow.


FAR from Scotland being at future demographic disadvantage, we are among those countries with the best prospects (Mark Smith – “The ‘Scottish Gap’ – does it trap us in the UK forever?”, September 5).

Scotland has historically suffered from exceptional levels of migration loss. Taking only the 20th century, had our migration gains and losses just been in balance, our population now would probably be closer to eight million than five.

Most of our net population loss were of reproduction age and there were higher birth rates in much of the century. This had an adverse effect on Scottish economic growth but we are now in quite different circumstances.

Countries with a low population density, good resources and in a northern position are the best placed to cope with the climate change we face. We can with the right policies have food, energy and water security. Some of our low-lying areas will lose out to rising sea levels but most of Scotland should be safe.

Our future problem will be managing in-migration because there will have to be major South to North movement.

If we want to increase birth-rates among our existing population, then focus on good, free child-care, affordable housing for prospective parents, and a move away from short-term contracts and the gig economy that so many young people now experience.

Isobel Lindsay, Biggar.


DEAR old Rab (sorry, Mr McNeil) advises us to meditate each morning and not give in to despair. (“It would be easy to give in to despair ... so let’s do that”, Herald Magazine, September 3)

I rather enjoyed his litany of disasters and envisagings of his possible last moments and had to laugh out loud.

I almost shared his thoughts of lying prostrate but there was no angelic choir, approaching ambulance or wee mouse for company when I fell over in the wood two weeks ago. I could not persuade my totally wonky legs to get me up from the bed of branches, twigs, pine needles and nettles, so resigned myself to a slow death.

I won’t have a mobile phone or other digital device, so just lay there gazing at the sky. Then the flies appeared and started to settle and that spurred me on. A very long crawl out of the wood took place.

Unlike Rab’s erudite dying words “nothing works”, my bloody hands and knees did, and bloody is the truth, as the elbows and knees are now scabby and sore. Still, mustn’t complain, as I have The Herald to enjoy each day and despair is not really on my agenda.

Hopefully there is no-one peeing on Rab’s tatties.

Thelma Edwards, Kelso.


THE other day I saw a Deliveroo cyclist not only riding on the road instead of on the pavement but also wearing a helmet. Is this a first?

Ronald Singleton (letters, September 4) says bells on bicycles should be mandatory. Surely the wearing of a helmet is a more urgent consideration for government legislation, considering there is a request for presumed liability when a car collides with a cyclist.

Possibly Patrick Harvie MSP could sponsor this now he’s had time to consider his folly in not wearing one.

Robert Aitken, Clarkston, Glasgow.