Credit:Illustration: Megan Herbert
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Vladimir Putin: A bully screaming ‘look what you made me do’
Vladimir Putin said recently that Russia is fighting for its life in Ukraine. This is nothing more than a bully screaming tearfully, “Look what you made me do”. But in one particular, upside-down sense which Putin doesn’t want to admit to, it’s right enough.
The longer the war drags on, the more important becomes the question of what happens if Russia wins. The victory can only be worth having if Ukraine has some economic value, but thanks to Putin that’s already in question. Russia will therefore have to rebuild Ukraine, at its own unimaginable expense and with continuing economic sanctions against it.
Chess addicts like the Russians know what a zugzwang is: a position where all possible moves are to a player’s disadvantage. Putin has put Russia into one. Even if he pulled out of Ukraine tomorrow, Ukraine would never again be the profitable trading partner for Russia that it used to be. To make its recovery even possible, let alone strong enough, Ukraine would have to do all of its trading with the West (and therefore with NATO). Western and NATO nations that were once almost dependent on Russian oil and gas will never again take such a risk. And the sanctions against Russia will go on and on and on.
Regarding Ireland, it took 700 years for the English to learn that political domination is worthless, whereas economic domination is effective and cheaper. With Putin out of the way, the Russians would have the opportunity to understand this. The next phase of Russian history would be a hard one, though endurable. But if the delusional Putin remains, the next phase of Russian history can only be disastrous.
Grant Agnew, Coopers Plains, Qld
The decision by the International Criminal Court to arrest Vladimir Putin for war crimes and crimes against humanity cannot be overstated (“ICC issues arrest warrant for Putin over alleged war crimes in Ukraine”, 19/03). This appropriately places him in the company of some of the world’s most notorious dictators, including Cambodia’s Pol Pot and Uganda’s Idi Amin and Rwanda’s Hutu genocidaire Felicien Kabuga.
Nick Toovey, Alice Springs
A financial incentive
Now that an arrest warrant has been issued, the US or the UN should put a bounty on Putin’s head. It would encourage some of his henchmen to capture and hand him over.
David Double, Essendon
Putting Putin on notice
Russia has responded to the arrest warrant for Putin issued by the ICC in The Hague by saying that decisions of the court have no meaning in Russia. Thus the decision will be ignored there.
Perhaps a partial answer could be if the Netherlands gave a Red Notice to Interpol. A Red Notice is based on an arrest warrant or court order issued by judicial authorities in the requesting country. This would prevent Putin from international travel to most countries, as he could be arrested as soon as his passport was presented on foreign soil.
George Greenberg, Malvern
In light of the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin it is important to remember there are a few leaders who should be ahead of him. It is the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. This was based on a falsehood that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was destroyed and estimates put the resulting deaths in the hundreds of thousands. The legacy of the invasion continues today.
The “coalition of the willing” was led by the US with president George Bush and allied with British prime minister Tony Blair and Australia’s John Howard. All three should be charged with crimes against humanity. One can refer to Britain’s Chilcot report, which condemned Blair’s decision to join with the US, when it was not yet the last resort. The findings could equally apply to Bush and Howard, for whom no accountability has been exercised within a legal framework.
Judith Morrison, Nunawading
Local trade routes
Keeping our trade routes open is a valid argument to boost our naval strength (“New subs will protect our trade routes”, 19/3). But after the budget commitment of $368billion – and counting – how much will be left over to keep our roads and other commercial infrastructure links open? After all, these are our internal trade routes that distribute the vital goods and services, including food, around the continent we call home. The increasing severity and frequency of the floods, fires and storms are a clear and present danger that we ignore at our peril.
John Mosig, Kew
Protecting our partners
So Australia needs massive nuclear-powered submarines to protect our trade routes, according to Richard Marles. Maybe we could enter into trade route defence pacts with our largest customers? Beginning with China?
Caroline Williamson, Brunswick
A smarter approach
If we used the funding earmarked for nuclear subs intelligently, we would not have to be obsessed with the need to protect our trade routes. This money could resurrect Australian manufacturing and reduce our reliance on imports.
This money could transition Australia into a carbon-free economy and eliminate the need for petroleum products from Singapore. In the short-term, the money could be used to build much needed petroleum storage in Australia. Currently our reserves are in America, which leaves us exposed.
Barry Lizmore, Ocean Grove
A number of your correspondents say Australia is provoking China by purchasing nuclear submarines. I would like to inquire of them what they think China is doing by having the largest and growing navy in the world that includes nuclear-powered submarines.
Bruce Watson, Clifton Springs
I’m giving my reluctant approval to the poll showing the majority agree with nuclear subs (“Voters back nuclear subs plan but are unsure about the cost”, 18/3). One reason may be that China is leading with such nuclear measures and that others need to keep up to ensure the mutually assured destruction (MAD) stand-off still holds, to prevent a nuclear war.
Maybe, just maybe, even China and the US will soon see that humanity can solve the Taiwan problem peacefully, and then we all get on with correcting climate change. Such international co-operation may lead to understanding that we don’t need a “frankensub” after all (“Making a monster”, Insight, 18/3).
Barbara Fraser, Burwood
Where do we stand?
I think the public would appreciate a categorical yes/no answer on whether our political leaders would commit Australia to join a conflict over Taiwan. Watching Defence Minister Richard Marles on ABC’s Insiders was hardly reassuring. While he ruled out AUKUS binding us to any of the US’ future military conflicts, he would not rule Australia out of helping to defend Taiwan, saying it would be a matter for the government of the day.
So what of the current government of the day? And if we were to go to war, how could it be justified? Australia’s official line is that it “does not regard the authorities in Taiwan as having the status of a national government”.
You’re no longer in opposition, Mr Marles. Are we committed to a foreign policy backflip that we’d back up with military action or will we stay out of this potential US misadventure?
Matt Dunn, Leongatha
In the event of a war with China the question of Chinese people resident in Australia will be raised. During World War II about 12,000 foreign nationals living in Australia were placed in internment across the country. In the 2021 census 1.4 million residents in Australia identified as Chinese. Applying the policy of internment used in World War II to a war against China today could see hundreds of thousands of Chinese in internment.
Vic Rowlands, Leongatha
While the rest of the world powers onwards and upwards with EVs Australia lags behind (“Slow action on fast chargers could drain enthusiasm for electric vehicle uptake”, 19/3). A decade of active opposition to EVs from the previous Coalition government has certainly stymied the uptake of EVs and the necessary charging stations. Who can forget the childish nonsense about EVs “ruining the weekend”? However, the state governments must also share some of the blame with regard to charging networks. People will not buy cars if they cannot reliably charge them on a trip.
Ross Hudson, Mount Martha
Owning up to fish kills
Your article in Good Weekend (“Field of Dreams”, 18/3) about cotton farming is very timely given the colossal fish kill now being reported at Menindee in the Darling River. As a former fish biologist involved in investigating the reasons for fish kills, the relevant authorities seem to be in denial as to what the real reasons may be for these latest mass deaths.
Unless something is done to rein in the excessive use of herbicides/pesticides for intensive agriculture, and the over-extraction of river water for irrigation (including by big cotton farms), we may as well say goodbye to the Darling-Barka River as a viable aquatic ecosystem.
The big irrigators must start taking responsibility for the destruction they are causing.
Bill O’Connor, Beechworth
It knows you too well
TikTok (“Government set to join TikTok ban”, 18/3) is so popular, especially with the under 30s, because it offers content that is just right for you, even if you didn’t really know it before. TikTok can do that because it has built up a detailed profile of your likes and dislikes, wants and needs, as expressed in your viewing habits. The more you view, the more it knows you.
The same principle applies to all social media. It knows you, perhaps, better than you know yourself and knows how to reach inside your head. Social media may not tell you what to think, but it can tell you what to think about.
Vincent O’Donnell Ascot Vale
The cost of cooling
Cara Waters’ article on the variation in temperature between the suburbs (“As city heats up, some suburbs feeling it more”, 18/3) was disturbing. The creation of massive heat islands is detrimental to the quality of life for those living in these concrete jungles, especially the more vulnerable such as the sick and the elderly.
One of the subjects not covered was the proliferation of artificial surfaces used for sporting facilities. Soccer and hockey fields, tennis and netball courts and most school grounds are artificial surfaces that can be up to 10 degrees hotter than natural grass. Along with bitumen and concrete roads, car parks and footpaths, these surfaces raise the temperature of the surrounding area.
Grass surfaces, together with trees, may need more maintenance and care but they are equivalent to installing airconditioning units in our suburbs. Local governments should limit the number of artificial surfaces in suburbs to ameliorate this dangerous heating effect.
Graeme Lechte, Brunswick West
Annika Smethurst’s piece on the Labor candidate for Aston Mary Doyle was a good summary of a local, ordinary person who understands the needs of people in Aston and who would do her best to represent them. However, when discussing the issue of road projects promised by the Liberals, it’s worth noting those projects were never properly funded.
Kieran Simpson, Blackburn North
Standing up for integrity
Thank you Stephen Charles, KC, for waving the moral flag, trying to rally the Greens, crossbenchers and the Coalition to establish an upper house inquiry into our state government and Daniel Andrews (“IBAC founder lashes premier on integrity”, 18/3).
Let’s hope that the concerns of upstanding people like Charles and former IBAC boss Robert Redlich stay in the spotlight. If the Andrews government has nothing to hide, it won’t hesitate to remove all the Labor representatives involved in the integrity watchdog committee.
Corinne Haber, Caulfield North
My beautiful wife lost her battle with bowel cancer in June last year. She was 49, too young to qualify for the government screening program.
Don’t waste the privilege of a free screening kit (“Millions skip bowel cancer home test”, 19/3), it could save your life and prevent unbearable pain for your loved ones left behind.
Jamie Mason, Altona North
A bit of footy with the ads
From logos on their guernseys, to bright markings on the ground, to fences flashing electronically loud, to racing words on the screen. Then we suffer one or two ads after every goal, destroying the feel of the game, then heaps more at every quarter. Then a wall of ads behind the coach. Please AFL, limit the bombardment of ads, and give us more rare plays of footy otherwise I’ll have to go back to the ABC or give up watching the telly.
Mark Cornell, Ballarat
I’m for keeping the current AFL shared points system in the home-and-away rounds rather than extra time (Letters, 19/3). Two teams who have wrestled to a draw after four quarters of hard-fought footy deserve to share the points. Two points are better than none, and you come away with some reward for your effort.
David Marshall, West Brunswick
And another thing
Please don’t bring extra time into footy matches to resolve draws – the thought of Carlton and Richmond both missing the finals by half a game is just too delicious.
Malcolm I. Fraser, Oakleigh South
There is no safe way to play AFL footy. Let’s have a 10-minute send-off (no replacement) for any head-high contact, intentional or not.
Peter Gould, Moonee Ponds
Memo to Peter Garrett: “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees” (“‘God help future generations’: Peter Garrett unloads on AUKUS”).
Ronald Elliott, Sandringham
We may have a few new submarines to pretend to defend our country, but is the real strategy to make our country so poverty stricken that no one will want to invade us?
Greg Tuck, Warragul
I’m curious to see whether our AUKUS submarines will be allowed by China to enter the port of Darwin.
Jae Sconce, Moonee Ponds
Prince Harry suing a tabloid? If all inaccurate tabloid news resulted in legal action, then the courts would become impossibly clogged.
John Hughes, Mentone
If we want to improve productivity, one way to stop a lot of wasted time would be requiring call centres to be adequately manned and based in Australia.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood
Has the Andrew’s government (“Billions spent on rail assets without proper oversight”, 19/3) taken a “fingers-crossed” approach in outsourcing the maintenance of the train system with no oversight or performance indicators?
Joan Segrave, Healesville
Will Jacqueline Maley’s “Prosecco mums” in Aston (Sunday Age, 19/3) support the fizz of Labor’s 50 per cent women in caucus, or Peter Dutton’s flat and mostly stale males?
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South
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