Engage with Putin or face the fall-out

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I am a former Edinburgh 
resident now living in 
Novosibirsk, Russia.

As news reports are full of superlatives and indignation and as queues form at the currency exchanges (a sure sign of crisis in Russia), we are all shocked at the prospect of armed conflict between two neighbours with the closest ties, including a shared Eastern Orthodox religion (the Lenten fast began on Monday).

Yet again, the challenge goes out to leaders and diplomats not to lob platitudes over the fence and not to be content with being right, but to engage with President Vladimir Putin and to offer a real alternative to armed conflict.

Whatever else may have been achieved in terms of democratic protest and 
national self-determination, the fact remains that Ukraine is an ethnically complex country and any long-term way forward must address the interests of the 30 per cent pro-Russian population.

It wasn’t that long ago that our own countries were limbering up to bomb Syria, with the full apparatus of media justification employed, before President Putin’s proposal pulled the world back from the brink of war.

Now it is time for someone to put forward an “off-ramp” in this situation. Read your history and do your ethnic psychology: Russians will not surrender or back down.

You may think they are wrong, but the consequences of not engaging to avert a 
catastrophe will be serious for all.

Russell Phillips



The only reason Crimea is currently part of Ukraine is that in 1954, for administrative convenience, former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it from one Soviet region to another.

Russia has striven for access to warm waters since the days of Peter the Great, and there is no way it will give up control of the Crimean bases of its Black Sea fleet.

There used to be a tacit understanding of “spheres of influence”, and the desire of the Russian-speaking Crimea to separate from Ukraine is 
absolutely not our concern.

Pontificating Anglo-American politicians should stand aside because Russia has 
already agreed to German chancellor Angela Merkel’s suggestion of a fact-finding mission in the Crimea.

Our disastrous interference in Iraq and Afghanistan set the Islamic Crescent ablaze and it is time we heard less from the White House and more from the German Chancellery.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place

St Andrews

During the Second World War, 20 million Soviet citizens lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. In 1989, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, George H W Bush assured then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that Nato would not look to expand East and encroach on the Russian border. It is in this context that Putin has sent his forces in Crimea. The fascist coup in Ukraine was sponsored by Germany and the USA.

America has spent $5 billion building up the so-called opposition. This has nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with ensuring Ukraine follows the diktats of the IMF and the World Bank. The calls by US Secretary of State John Kerry for Russia to “respect” the sovereignty of Ukraine is joke.

The blame for the crisis in Ukraine lies squarely with the USA. President Barack Obama has followed a wreckless foreign policy which has included supporting Islamists in Syria and building up US forces to confront China.

Alan Hinnrichs

Gillespie Terrace


I was fascinated to read Secretary John Kerry saying: “You don’t behave in a 19th-century fashion by invading another country on a trumped-up pretext” (your report, 3 March). Has he met George Bush?

Douglas Turner

Derby Street


The conflict in the Ukraine brought to mind that the port of Sebastopol was founded by Rear Admiral Thomas MacKenzie of the Russian Navy, whose progenitors came from the Isle of Lewis, Western Isles.

There is a MacKenzie Hill in Sebastopol and the Battle of Balaclava was fought in the vicinity of MacKenzie’s farm.

The Scots are taught little of their country’s history and therefore I am not surprised that I have never met even one Scottish historian who ever heard of MacKenzie, whom I believe was the third generation of his family to serve with distinction in the Russian Navy.

Donald J MacLeod

Woodcroft Avenue