MYRA Gartshore (Letters, December 28) states that not only is there "constant prejudice against Russia but absolute ignorance". As an example of the latter, she cites the apparent assertions of Brexiters that Britain saved Europe from the Nazis, whereas in her view, this was down to the Red Army facing 80 per cent of Hitler's forces on the Eastern Front. This is rather selective. Aside from the argument that if Britain had not continued to stand alone against Hitler, he could have devoted 100 per cent of his forces to the East, thus making a German victory much more likely, it could be argued that the war itself was in fact facilitated by the Soviet Union, since it was the perfidious pact concluded between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 which gave the green light to Hitler to invade Poland, safe in the knowledge that he would not at that time face a war on two fronts.

Stalin had earlier refused to be a part of a collective effort to deter Hitler, instead calculating that after Germany and the Western democracies had fought themselves to exhaustion, he would then be left with the spoils. The Red Army only ended up fighting Hitler in 1941 after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, (a move of which Stalin had ample warning from the West, but disbelieved due to his paranoia).

The pact carved Eastern Europe into two spheres of influence, and with the Germans invading Poland from the west, the Soviet Union invaded from the east, thereafter also annexing the Baltic republics and parts of Romania. There then ensued a reign of terror, involving the deportation and murder of tens of thousands of people, perhaps the most notorious single incident being the slaughter in the Katyn Forest of more than 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals, the sort of people who might have formed the leadership of a democratic post war Poland. May I suggest that Ms Gartshore should read Roger Moorhouse's excellent book The Devil's Alliance?

After the war, the Soviet Union kept all of the these lands, which it had invaded with the connivance of Hitler, and helped to establish and thereafter support (through the selfsame Red Army) murderous police states throughout the rest of Eastern Europe.

Russia is today in effect ruled by a mafia clique. Human rights have been abused and opposition politicians and journalists murdered. The state controls the media. It has invaded the Crimea, is fighting a proxy war in Eastern Ukraine, and there is well documented evidence of it attempting to destabilise "the West" by a variety of means. In light of this and of the history cited above, it would seem that the West is more than justified in regarding Russia with a significant degree of suspicion, if not the "prejudice" mentioned by Ms Gartshore.

R Murray,

28 Maxwell Drive, Glasgow.

EUROPE is split on whether to impose further sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea. Germany, for example, needs the energy resources its near neighbour can supply.

The US President also needs Russia's help, but on worries such as pacifying Iran, the Middle East and probably North Korea – maybe "America first" concerns.

Who will the shrunken British Empire support? Perhaps Brexit is the all-consuming priority instead.

So much for geo-politics. On geo-economics there was a useful reminder from Bill Ramsay (Letters, December 28) that the thawing of Russia's Arctic seas will accelerate China's hegemonic prospects in the world. Incidentally, China is opposed to religion and superstition for party members; remember that Russia was once called the "Evil Empire" for promoting atheism.

Ian Jenkins,

7 Spruce Avenue, Hamilton.

THE last months of 2017 were major calendar milestones for the people of Tibet. October marked the 30th anniversary of the brutal Chinese military crackdown of the 1987 Tibetan Uprising, which prompted the establishment of Free Tibet. Then, on November 15, China’s President Xi Jinping celebrated his fifth year in power – a long and unforgiving five years for many Tibetans living within occupied Tibet.

Under an emboldened Xi Jinping, Beijing is increasingly tightening its vice-like grip on those who refuse to recognise Chinese rule over them – from Tibetans in the west to Hong Kongers in the east. Overseas, Beijing has sought to bring round other governments to its world view through a potent mix of economic intimidation and soft power.

A key weapon in China’s soft-power armoury is its vast network of Confucius Institutes, the first of which was founded almost 13 years to the day. Superficially, Confucius Institutes are resources made available to schools and universities to help students learn about China’s language, history and culture. In reality this Chinese state-funded entity with a government-friendly agenda has ingratiated its way into classrooms worldwide.

In 2015 your reporter David Leask reported that Scotland has one of the highest densities of Confucius Institutes in the world. For those wishing to study Mandarin or Chinese history, this may sound like great news – for those of us documenting repression in Tibet it raises real concerns.

Free Tibet is not opposed to cultural exchanges nor students learning Chinese, an increasingly useful language. What we do fear is that the Scottish Government is facilitating teaching and contact on terms that give influence over children to a government that actively crushes free speech and is responsible for significant human rights violations in places such as Tibet.

Nearly three years after Mr Leask’s article Free Tibet remains concerned about issues of academic freedom, allowing China indirect influence on Scottish education systems and the potential that exists to shut down debate in the classroom.

There are now facilities at Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Herriot Watt universities. Worryingly, Strathclyde helped set up the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools that support Confucius Classroom Hubs in both secondary and primary schools nationwide.

The Confucius Institute may be a safe space for students to confuse their verbs but there will be no mention of the 150 self-immolations that have occurred in Tibet since 2009 nor the 2016 Freedom House report that ranks Tibet as the second least-free place in the world. The version of Chinese history and culture taught by these institutes will be that of the Chinese Communist Party.

It is now time Scottish educational authorities did their homework and accepted that in their urgency to trade with an emboldened China, they risk forgetting that its gifts come with strings attached. Scotland’s next generation deserve the right to an education free of ties.

Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren,

Director of Free Tibet, 28 Charles Square, London.

I NOTE your report on the latest statement fromChina;s foreign ministry (“China hits out over backing for activists”, The Herald, December 29) How dare foreigners stand up for human rights, the rule of law, democracy and all the other 21st century values the Chinese dictators hate. We should all bow and scrape before the mighty Chinese or, like myself, buy nothing that says "Made in China".

B McKenna,

Overton Avenue, Dumbarton.