Nato expansion and the Ukraine conflict | Letters

Letters: Seumas Milne calls for a settlement that ‘guarantees Ukraine’s neutrality’. That is not a call which he, or anyone else outside Ukraine, has the right to make

Seumas Milne’s commentary on the situation in Ukraine (The demonisation of Russia risks paving the way for war, 5 March) contains errors in historical fact and in political judgment. Incidentally, these errors are also a regular feature of Russian statements, which Nato totally rejects. Nato has never been guilty of “military expansionism”, which was in fact the hallmark of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, the countries of the former Soviet bloc freely chose to apply for membership because they saw it as the best guarantee of their freedom, open societies and security.

To claim that Nato “expanded relentlessly” to absorb them, and to imply that it should not have done so in order to preserve Russia’s sense of security, is to deny the right to self-determination of tens of millions of people in central and eastern Europe, and to undermine the fundamental principles of European security which Russia itself has signed up to. Nor did Nato ever make a “commitment” not to take in new members, as Mr Milne and many Russian leaders have claimed. In an interview published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta on 15 October 2014, former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev said: “The topic of ‘Nato expansion’ was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years.” As the man to whom the promise is said to have been given, his words carry weight.

Finally, Mr Milne calls for a settlement that “guarantees Ukraine’s neutrality”. That is not a call which he, or anyone else outside Ukraine, has the right to make. The founding document of European security, the Helsinki Final Act, states with Shakespearean clarity that each country has the right “to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance”.
Oana Lungescu
Nato spokesperson, public diplomacy division

• Seumas Milne complains about Ukrainian preparations to defend the city of Mariupol. Perhaps the reason such preparations are taking place is because, in January, pro-Russian rebels fired rockets into the city centre, killing 30 people and wounding many more – an attack described as “reckless, indiscriminate and disgraceful” by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Mr Milne’s claim that Russia’s covert support for armed rebels in Ukraine should be “put in the context of Russian security” is absurd and smacks of blaming the victim for the bully’s aggression.

I am all in favour of winding down the conflict but the quickest way to de-escalate the situation is for President Putin to cut off the flow of arms and fighters to eastern Ukraine and tone down the belligerent rhetoric of Russia’s state-controlled media – which unlike that of the west, does not allow room for dissenting voices.
John Bourn
Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

• Seumas Milne appears to be a lone sane voice in the face of the resuscitation of the cold war and its bellicose rhetoric. In the rush to send troops to Ukraine by the US and Britain, why has there been no call for UN mediation? Perhaps the world has come to accept that the US and its acolytes don’t give a fig about the UN and are determined to continue playing the role of world policemen. Of the 1,000-plus deaths in the Ukraine conflict, the majority have been civilians killed by the Ukraine army’s heavy shelling of civilian areas – a clear war crime. We are sleepwalking into another dangerous conflict in Europe and appear to have learned nothing from our history.
John Green

• What is really scary is that the BBC seems to be promoting belligerent propaganda with enthusiasm. We have had a procession of ex-military, present and former politicians, and almost-total sidelining of those who could offer a counter-narrative, such as Tony Brenton ex-ambassador to Russia, historians such as Richard Sakwa, Henry Kissinger, Jeffrey Sachs and many others. Jane Martinson (Analysis, 4 March) says we must keep the BBC free from political interference, but to whom can we complain that it is not fulfilling its charter mission to inform? Explaining Russia’s perspective and the west’s record since the cold war – and providing some caution about the drive to military confrontation – would be a much more appropriate BBC tribute to those who lost their lives in the 1914-18 war than the endless nostalgic memorialising that it is going on now.
Andrew Broadbent

The GuardianTramp

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