NATO partly responsible for Ukraine crisis
* The situation in Ukraine and Crimea is now fraught with danger. If violent conflict occurs the people in both countries could once again suffer catastrophically, having suffered more than any other European country under both Stalin and Hitler.
For most Ukrainians, Crimea is part of Ukraine, but historically Russia has a substantial claim to it, and the Tartar people have always had ambitions for independence, but their population was decimated by Stalin's deportation of vast numbers to central Asia.
Russians now make up 58pc of Crimea, with 24pc Ukrainians and only 12pc Tartars. The Crimean peninsula is of vital strategic importance to Russia, due to its vital access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
It is likely that Russia could have lived with a pro-western government in Kiev developing closer economic ties with the West, but it was the spectre of Ukraine joining NATO thereby sealing off Russian strategic access to the south that was always going to be unacceptable.
A total of 23 EU member states are also full NATO members and the others are members of NATO's so-called Partnership for Peace, so Russia views the EU as being synonymous with NATO. A peaceful solution to the East/West divide in Ukraine should have been to declare Ukraine a constitutionally neutral state, as Austria and Finland are.
This would have allowed for economic co-operation with both Russia and the EU without threatening Russian strategic interests. This opportunity has now been lost. Nothing was learnt from the Georgian/Russian war in 2008.
On April 1, 2008, President Bush said in Kiev that both Ukraine and Georgia should be allowed to join NATO despite objections from Russia. In August 2008, Russia annexed Abkhazia and South Ossetia, provinces of Georgia.
If the Russian de facto annexation of Crimea leads to violent conflict with Ukraine, Russia may also seek to annex a slice of eastern Ukraine from Kharkiv to the Crimea.
Eamon Gilmore described the situation as the most serious European crisis since the end of the Cold War. He is correct, but the EU has gone sleep-walking into it, and NATO indirectly provoked it.
DR EDWARD HORGAN
IRISH PEACE AND NEUTRALITY ALLIANCE, CASTLETROY, CO LIMERICK
BARROSO SHINDIG CRAZY
* THE academics at UCC have decided, inexplicably, to bend the knee and touch the cap to Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU Commission, at a lavish ceremony to be held in Cork.
Mr Barroso, of course, represents our so-called partners in Europe who used the jackboot in 2010 to insist that our hapless politicians accept the private losses and debts of Irish and European banks to be foisted on innocent Irish taxpayers and that all bondholders be paid in full.
As a result of Mr Barroso's policies, in collusion with our inept government, Irish citizens have suffered the effects of appalling austerity for the past five years which have decimated Irish society and will do so for generations to come.
As a graduate of UCC, I am disgusted by this meaningless public funded knees-up and extravaganza which again highlights the total disconnect between the insiders and the ordinary Irish citizen.
* RTE Sport is in danger of putting Irish racing on the back burner, and concentrating only on soccer and rugby.
For example, we had two recent winners, namely Eastern Ruler and Elleval, on Thursday last in two prestigious races. Neither victory was mentioned on 'Six One News'.
I subsequently telephoned RTE and complained, and asked might they be mentioned in the Nine o'clock bulletin? I was told there was no sport on that particular programme.
However, to my immense surprise, as it turned out it had sporting highlights which once more featured soccer and rugby, and racing lost out.
KILLINEY, CO DUBLIN
BANK ON POLITICIANS . . .
* When something is working well the politicians want to destroy it – the post office; when something fails the politicians want to preserve it – the banks.
GOWRAN, CO KILKENNY
RESPECT IS REQUIRED
* I am in a loving same-sex relationship for more than seven years. As Catholics we would seek to uphold and respect the teachings of the church.
However, we are particularly annoyed by the outburst by all concerned regarding homophobia, given that it is ultimately us – a private couple – who will suffer from this negativity towards our relationship and potential for future state marriage. We pray that our fellow Catholics may continue to show the Lord's love to one and all.
PAWEL STU AND GARETH MALONE
CASTLEKNOCK WAY, DUBLIN 15
LET NATIVE TREES BLOSSOM
* This is National Tree Week and time to reflect on and do something about the status of Ireland's trees.
Our forestry policy has been mainly focused on growing monoculture exotic conifers for cheap construction timber, chipboard and wood pulp for paper.
At one time, the country was covered by native oak and pine woodlands but today we have less than 12pc tree cover, of which less than 2pc consists of native species.
This is surely an opportune time to plant trees and – in the interests of biodiversity and to establish a valuable hardwood industry – we should plant a lot of native trees.
CELT, TUAMGRANEY, CO CLARE
PLAY IT STRAIGHT, ENDA
* I am one of those Irish people that Enda Kenny spoke of during his speech at the FG Ard Fheis. I have no party affiliation. I simply vote for whoever I think is best equipped to run my country fairly.
I am sure – as lots of people seem to state from experience – that Mr Kenny is a nice man who does his best, but really Enda . . . "People who play politics with serious issues should hold their head in shame".
Enda said this and the auditorium erupted in agreement like a crowd of football fans celebrating a goal against their bitterest rivals. I take it that Enda assumes this remark and the expected response was not 'playing politics'? The way to beat unfairness, Enda, is with playing fair, not slinging bigger lumps of muck.
BLACKGLEN ROAD, DUBLIN 18
TAKING PRINCIPLED STAND
* Last week, the day after Amnesty International released its report 'Trigger-happy: Israel's use of excessive force in the West Bank', another Palestinian, Moataz Washaha (25), was killed by the Israeli army.
The damning report outlines the Israeli military's "callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children", during the last three years in the occupied West Bank and calls on the EU and the US to suspend arms and munitions transfers to Israel while it continues to act with impunity.
It is time the Government took a principled stand in heeding the call from Amnesty International, and called for Israel's special trading relations with the EU to be suspended until such time as it upholds international law.
DOORADOYLE, CO LIMERICK