Jonathan Powell’s call for readiness for negotiations with Russia when the time comes (Putin is not yet ready to end the Ukraine war. When he is, we must be prepared, 23 June) is starkly complemented by your report of the murderous exploitation of Aiden Aslin (British man facing death sentence in Donetsk told: ‘Time is running out’, 22 June). Our leaders have – at least publicly – failed to confront Russia’s propagandistic calling of the tune. We fail to challenge the medieval tactic of razing cities and the cynically calculated mass murder of civilians.
Putin cites Russia’s history in justification of his war, talking of Nuremberg-style processes to menace prisoners of war and please his supporters at home. He, and they, should be less selective in their recall, and remember those who were condemned under Nuremberg protocols for failure to protect prisoners from execution under the infamous commando and commissar orders.
Why is no representative of our government telling them this? Why are we not hammering home to Russian field officers that “following orders” will be no defence against being thrown under the bus when Putin finds it expedient to de-escalate via the Colombian-style transitional justice that Powell refers to?
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Jonathan Powell is absolutely right to point out that a lasting peace cannot be achieved in Ukraine if Russia feels humiliated, as Germany did after the first world war. Ukraine, by definition, cannot defeat Russia – therefore, however unpalatable it may be, it will have to make some territorial concessions, probably in the pro-Russian areas that were de facto Russian territory before the invasion.
But this choice is not Ukraine’s alone. The US-led western powers have pumped defensive weapons into the country to hurt Russia and slow its advance. These will not change the outcome, only delay it, and the more pain that is inflicted on Russia, the more it will press a hard bargain for peace.
If the west really wants to see peace in Ukraine and an end to the suffering of its people, it must press Volodymyr Zelenskiy to negotiate and agree concessions, with the lever of stopping military supplies. We are driving the agenda by prolonging the conflict, and it is within our power to bring it to an end, if we want to.
Jonathan Powell argues, quite rightly, that a negotiated settlement is necessary in Ukraine. If this happens, however, it will still be after tens of thousands have been killed and millions have been made refugees, and countless houses and other buildings have been destroyed.
Would it not have been better to have accepted the Russian invasion when it started and used peaceful methods to resolve the situation? Could Russia really expect to govern a country with most of the population against it? Although painful, would this really have been worse than all the death and destruction so far?
Countries are rearming and generals all over the world are licking their lips at the extra resources coming their way. Arms manufacturers are delighted at the forthcoming new orders. Meanwhile, even as people in the UK are short of accommodation and food and our NHS is struggling, there will be demands for more expenditure on our armed forces.
Humans must come up with alternatives to wars as ways of settling differences. I am sorry to see that not even the Guardian is reporting the alternative ideas coming from organisations like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition.
Otley, West Yorkshire
Jonathan Powell says “even ‘winners’ have to negotiate, as at Versailles in 1919”. But in 1919 the winners negotiated with themselves. Germany was excluded from the conference until the treaty terms were settled. After a couple of weeks to study the treaty, on 28 June the German delegation was made to sign it, unaltered, under the threat of resumed warfare. Not much negotiation there.
Much Wenlock, Shropshire