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Letter: Putin Has Unleashed Forces Greater Than He Can Imagine

Published on: 14 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 14 Mar, 2022

From: Ben Paton

In response to: Why We Need to Support a No-fly Zone in Ukraine

Many will share Dr Shaw’s sentiments. But his call to risk nuclear arms is premature, for these reasons.

1. We are at the beginning of a revolution, not a rebellion. When Charles I took the fateful step in January 1642 to abandon London and raise an army in Oxford no one foresaw that in 1649 he himself would be tried for treason and beheaded. No one had heard of an obscure Norfolk farmer called Oliver Cromwell. The New Model Army was not even a glint in Parliament’s eye.

When the Hohenzollerns of Prussia, the Hapsburgs of Austria and the Romanovs of Russia raised armies to try to restore the Bourbons to the throne of France and crush the French Revolution, they had never heard of Napoleon. They never imagined the extraordinary force of nature represented by armies raised by the newborn Republic.

Two hundred years later all those ruling families are vestiges of history. In their place, late, but built on the solid foundations of the sacrifices of millions there is the Federal Republic of Germany.

2. The most powerful country in Europe, Germany has finally awoken from a slumber of pacifism.

3. The Russians themselves don’t want this war, although perhaps half of them don’t know that yet. But someday they will remember the words that Boris Pasternak put into the mouth of Dr Zhivago’s uncle Kolya:-

“What you don’t understand is that it is possible to be an atheist, not to know if God exists or why He should, and yet to believe that man does not live in a state of nature but in history and that history as we know it began with Christ…

“What is it? Firstly, the love of one’s neighbour – the supreme form of living energy. Once it fills the heart of man it has to overflow and spend itself. And secondly, the two concepts which are the main part of the make-up of modern man – without them he is inconceivable – the idea of free personality and of life regarded as sacrifice. Mind you, all this is still quite new. There was no history in this sense in the classical world. There you had blood and beastliness and cruelty and pock-marked Caligulas untouched by the suspicion that any man who enslaves others is inevitably second-rate. There you had the boastful dead eternity of bronze monuments and marble columns… It was not until after Him that men began to live in their posterity and ceased to die in ditches like dogs…”

4. A thousand or a hundred thousand Scarlet Pimpernel’s will covertly assist the Ukrainians.

5. “Le jour de gloire est arrive”, in the words of the Marseillaise. It will not be Putin’s.

In sum, Putin has unleashed forces greater than he had the wit to imagine, the same forces that overthrew despotism in England and France and Germany.

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