Friday 23 September 2022

Peter Hitchens on the risk of nuclear war and Hitler analogies

I agree with Peter Hitchens on almost everything and disagreed with his late brother Christopher on most things. I thought Peter took sympathy for Putin too far but the invasion of Ukraine shows that his warnings about Russia's grievances and the risks of mishandling Russia were all too justified.

Like me, he thought Russia would not invade because she would be mad to do so. In this conversation with my namesake and the Spectator's Katie Balls he points out that he was right to think the Russian army was far too weak to conquer Ukraine.

He also talks about my favourite theme; the folly of analogies with Munich and 1938. Putin is not Hitler, nor were Nasser, Saddam, or people who don't like feminism.

Appeasement happens all the time, he rightly says. Of course, thankfully.

Anyway, appeasement at Munich 1938 was the right thing to do. I thought everyone agreed on that now. It bought Britain and France time. France, in any case, would never have gone to war for her ally Czechoslovakia, so why should Britain, which had no allies?

(Perhaps we’d be better off without allies now, but this is not the moment for me to persuade anyone of that.)

A better question is was Chamberlain right to guarantee Poland and go to war the next year?

This is the question that is most relevant to the present moment. The answer, with hindsight, must be no.

Had we ignored the German invasion of Belgium in 1914 and had Russia ignored the Hapsburg Emperor’s invasion of Serbia in 1914 how vastly better place the world would be. The Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires would probably still exist. No world wars, no Bolshevism, no fascism, no problems in the Middle East.

Peter Hitchens thinks the danger of nuclear war is greater than at any time in history. It's one of the two moments of greatest danger, comparable with the moment the Americans nearly caused a nuclear war over Cuba. Compare the American attitude to Cuba with the Russian attitude to Ukraine. I think it is very unlikely indeed but even a very small possibility is very serious indeed.

He also thinks the invasion happened because Putin is not rational. I do not think I’d go that far, though he is very paranoid, as all authoritarian leaders are.

All the Romanian taxi drivers I have spoken to, several at the weekend, think the blame for the war is evenly divided between Russia and America or in one case America's. 

Clever people usually side with Ukraine, though they sometimes point out that Ukraine is trying to suppress use of Romanian in schools in ethnic Romanian areas. 

Quite a few tell me they think America wanted this war. One clever friend told me, when Russia invaded, that America had given Putin a lose-lose choice. This observation, I see now, is true.

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