17 February 2022, The Tablet

Putin and the risk to peace

Ukraine on the brink


Vladimir Putin gains nothing by invading Ukraine. But he gains some tactical success by threatening to do so, gains thrown away in a day. Waging aggressive war is a crime in international law, which Nazi politicians and generals paid for with their lives at Nuremberg – on indictments drawn up not just in Western capitals, but in Moscow. This is something for him to ponder.

Key to this dispute has been Putin’s desire to see Ukraine returned to the Russian orbit or sphere of influence. This quasi-imperialist goal was being frustrated by Ukraine’s leaning towards the West, which is as much about culture as it is about politics. Putin has failed to read the lesson from the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites, which saw millions of people in Eastern Europe attracted not just by Western consumer goods and lifestyle but by a model of freedom, democracy and human rights enjoyed (more or less) by their Western neighbours.

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