Saturday 21 September 2019

Moscow and Ankara must focus on peace

In truth, Mr Putin has been playing some very dangerous games of late
In truth, Mr Putin has been playing some very dangerous games of late


For centuries, Turkey and Russia have squared up to each other, belligerence kept at bay only by cold pragmatism. But the downing of a Russian jet by the Turks yesterday has brought a parlous and fractured relationship to boiling point. This has the potential to be ruinous for Europe and indeed the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already warned of serious consequences.

US President Barack Obama has issued an appeal for cool heads. We must hope that he is heeded. Were Russia to retaliate and bring down a Turkish jet, the Nato member could call on its allies to act, a direction that could only end in catastrophe.

In truth, Mr Putin has been playing some very dangerous games of late. In Georgia, Crimea, eastern Ukraine, the Baltics, and most recently Syria, he has pursued a relentlessly Russia-first agenda, trampling on diplomacy and political agreements. His meddling in the affairs of other nations has at times bordered on the irresponsible. Russia loves a strong leader, yet Western leaders must accept some of the blame for not taking the Russian president more seriously. He may be accused of having a cavalier attitude towards other nations' borders, but, on the other hand, he has not always been welcome at the elite table.

While Mr Obama wavered, Mr Putin seized his chance and struck his own alliances in the Middle East.

Yesterday saw America declare a global travel alert due to the heightened terrorist threat. At a time when Europe, Russia and the US ought to be coming closer together to confront a common enemy, the prospect of further division and distrust must be dealt with urgently. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, French President François Hollande said he wanted to meet Mr Putin with the intention of forming "one big coalition". Such a coalition is overdue. Further tension can only play into the hands of the terrorists. It is vital that all efforts focus on a peace deal for Syria and that the massive task of stabilising Iraq can also be planned. But with the heart of Europe already paralysed and in lockdown thanks to a maniacal group of terrorists, the priority must be to keep Moscow and Ankara from descending into a disastrous spiral of further conflict.

IFA members deserve transparency in future

A journey begins with a single step, but sometimes it can end abruptly, with a sideways one. This was the case for IFA president Eddie Downey. Mr Downey's prospects of leading the   IFA again do not look great, nor, many would agree, should they. 

So far, two key players in the farming organisation have been burned in the fallout over pay rates, but the mood within the organisation suggests that this may not be enough. It is some time since the organisation's economist, Con Lucey, raised his concerns, but nothing came of them.

This newspaper also met with stony silence when it asked legitimate questions. Mr Downey should now accept that he would be best served by walking away completely.

Perception matters and, from without, more than merely being "shocked" was required from Mr Downey, regarding the staggering amount his body was shelling out to general secretary Pat Smith. The IFA will be reeling from these revelations for some time to come. It is to be hoped questions about how it operates will not be brushed aside in the future. The legions of IFA members who give their time and energies to help farmers on a voluntary basis expect more.

Irish Independent

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