Despite his caveats, Simon Tisdall is in effect making a case for Nato to go to war with Russia (“Defeat for Ukraine would be a global disaster. Nato must finally step in”, Foreign Affairs Commentary).
I believe that such a course of action would prove detrimental to western interests. If the Ukrainian counteroffensive fails to attain its ambitious objectives, no amount of western aid will allow Kyiv to prevail – including the controversial cluster munitions, that Washington is making available to the Ukrainians at the expense of its own soft power. The real choice facing the west is between a direct involvement of Nato and an end to hostilities through a peace treaty or an armistice of indefinite duration.
Both the latter alternatives imply the sacrifice of sovereign Ukrainian territory, and will be resisted by the Ukrainians if they are led to believe that Nato will openly enter the war on their side. A direct western involvement, however, would be unwise for more than one reason: the danger of nuclear escalation; in the unlikely event Putin succumbs to a coup or a revolt, his successors will almost certainly prove more extremist – and perhaps incapable of keeping the federation together, and its gigantic nuclear arsenal under control; and Russia would become a Chinese satellite – despite the very real, underlying issues between Moscow and Beijing. It is fortunate that Joe Biden has wisely precluded Ukraine’s Nato membership.
George Sekeris, former ambassador of Greece to Nato
I could not agree more with Simon Tisdall. There are many who have been duped by Putin’s baseless projections of power, but his military failures in Ukraine show that Russian maskirovka [military deception] is the real threat.
Tisdall mentions that Ukraine could have been admitted into Nato 15 years ago, and it’s tragic that this did not happen. However, Nato could have prevented this war by sending a deterrent force into Ukraine in January 2022, when it was clear that Russia was massing forces for an invasion. Putin projected vast military power. This projection rapidly collapsed, with Russia’s best troops retreating after reaching the suburbs of Kyiv. But unfounded acceptance of Putin’s disinformation had devastating consequences for Ukraine.
For 500 days, Nato and other western institutions have made decisions at an agonisingly slow pace. This, too, is a reflection of the west’s unfounded fear of Russia, that has allowed Putin’s thugs to act with impunity and entrench along a 1,000km frontline. Our so-called leaders in Europe and the US must summon the courage to see through Putin’s mask.
Fairfield, Idaho, US
Riveting Kabul testimonies
Barbara Ellen wonders why there weren’t more civilian voices heard during the brilliant series Evacuation, about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 (Television reviews). It focused on firsthand experiences by military personnel, which is rare, revealing and riveting. We didn’t need the terrified voices of victims or survivors: it was vividly obvious what people were being subjected to in the shameful, violent chaos. The last thing needed was some fatuous interviewer asking the gratuitous “how do you feel?”. We had the very moving account from a family who had managed to flee to Britain. They said it all.
The traumatic memories of what these professional men and women witnessed, and their honest and clear testaments, were enough.
Trans debate: a third way?
One thing that puzzles me is why there should be so much debate about sex and gender, with gender choice being equated with biological sex (“There’s no law says a charity can’t hold views you disagree with. Even on gender-identity issues”, Comment). In changing gender, a person has no experience of what it was like to grow up within that gender, ie the biological sex. Likewise, those who do not choose to change gender have no experience of the physical and emotional processes of transgender individuals. I wonder why that can’t be acknowledged and a third or fourth group be recognised? I appreciate that might raise practical difficulties, but it could shift the debate from its current binary and oppositional state.
Dr Tania Phillips
Porthleven, Helston, Cornwall
Health partnerships vital
In an Observer report using data published on Disclosure UK, the open transparency database provided by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), there are unjustified suggestions that industry partnerships with the NHS and with healthcare professionals may be detrimental to patient care. If this were true, it would be against the industry’s code of practice and the law (“How Big Pharma’s millions are influencing healthcare”, News).
The report is right to highlight the acute challenges facing the NHS, with staff and resources hard-pressed to meet demand – which is why collaborations between the industry and NHS are more important than ever. All collaborations must improve patient care and outcomes as their primary objective. They allow companies and the NHS to pool skills, experience and resources to deliver projects that support the appropriate use of medicines in line with local or national guidance. These projects provide a triple win – benefiting patients, the NHS and pharmaceutical companies – which is vital as the NHS recovers from the Covid pandemic and seeks to pivot to a more preventative approach.
Richard Torbett, chief executive, ABPI
Musical criticism is off key
Further to your article (“Twelve culture secretaries in 13 years”, New Review), it is true that we have had no one in the post interested in or knowledgeable about the arts since Chris Smith. Sadly, Labour seems as uninterested as the Tories. For its spokesperson to say Nicholas Serota did a good job is hardly warm praise – he was director of the Tate, for heaven’s sake – but to claim that the classical music sector is at fault for not promoting itself is simply untrue.
For example, the Manchester music ensemble Psappha – which Fiona Maddocks praised in your pages as “brilliant” – made programmes that could be accessed free online to help teachers teaching music to seven- to 11-year-olds, sponsored prizes and ran workshops so young composers could work with professionals. It has been doing this for 30 years. The outcome? The group lost all its Arts Council England funding. An invaluable community and artistic resource has disappeared.
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
Brexit: a roaring success?
Re your article “‘Reopen border to EU workers’ – top Tory Brexiter” (News): we must recognise that Brexit is here to stay; except we must find ways to reopen our borders with EU countries to cure our labour shortage; solve the Irish question; develop a coordinated policy to reduce inflation; foster collaboration with academic and research groups in the EU; allow medical services to be freely available when we travel; and allow the music industry unhindered access to the EU. Finally, we must demand a voice on all those EU bodies that make decisions. Aside from all that, Brexit has been a roaring success.