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9 March 2022

Letter of the week: An exit plan for Putin

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By New Statesman

Vladimir Putin has overreached himself. He needs a way out, and the West should give him one. Otherwise the Russian bear, facing defeat and humiliation, could double down and really threaten world peace. It’s time for some realpolitik. I suggest a partition, with the river Dnieper the border, leaving eastern Ukraine a quasi-satellite of Russia and western Ukraine as an independent “buffer state” looking westward. Kharkov and Lviv respectively could be the capital cities for the two new states, with Kyiv a “free city”, as were Tangier and Danzig in the past.

To reach this optimum requires firstly a ceasefire, next an international commission and peace-keeping force, and lastly two good old-fashioned plebiscites, one east, one west. In due course western Ukraine could join Nato and the EU, but not yet. As for Putin himself, a period of reflection followed by a comfortable retirement would be the usual Russian pattern for humiliated former leaders – as was applied to Nikita Khrushchev after the Cuban missile crisis.
Sir Andrew Cook CBE, Champéry, Switzerland

Liberal disorder

Am I the only one who is unclear about what John Gray means when he refers to “the liberal order”? (“The new age of disorder”, 4 March). Surely the liberal order is multi-dimensional: political, economic, ethical etc. Is it all “dead and buried”? Can we have more discussion about what liberalism is, since its death is so widely assumed? What are the forces challenging or shaping it, and is it dying or simply changing? Is its replacement by an autocratic populism – the battle of all against all – unavoidable, as John Gray seems to imply?
Carole Sturdy, London E17

John Gray claims that the Ukraine invasion, and the muted response to it in some parts of the world, marks the end of liberalism. It does not. It marks the end of a purely financial version. True liberalism is about the dignity and worth of the individual human being, not as a selfish participant in various marketplaces but as a considerate member of a society based on freedom and tolerance. Such values are exactly what are under threat from Putin-style militant nationalism, and the sight of people all round Europe and the US burying their differences and standing up for these values shows that they are alive and well.
Chris West, Cottered, Herts

The Nato fallacy

Duncan MacIntyre (Correspondence, 4 March) asked “What if Nato had not been so intent on expansion in the 1990s and more aware of the understandable anxieties this raised in Russia?” The obvious answer is that, had Nato not responded positively to the former Soviet Republics’ desire for mutual protection, then Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia would have been targets like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Putin’s invasion proves they were entirely right to fear Russian imperialism. The lesson of Ukraine is not that Nato expanded too far or too fast.
Martin McGrath, St Albans, Herts

A word for our times

As I catch up with my Nicholas Lezard reading, in his piece from 7 May 2021 he quotes from Derek Robinson’s A Splendid Little War the Russian concept of vranyo – which means, as Lezard explains, “telling barefaced lies and knowing full well that the person or people you’re lying to also know they are lies”. Right now, I cannot think of a term that is more topical or relevant.
Diane Ordish, Brighton

Local hero

As usual Hunter Davies struck the right note (The Fan, 25 February). Following the defeat of his beloved Spurs by my team, Middlesbrough, I’d like to draw his attention to the admiration and respect that Boro fans have for local lad and club chairman Steve Gibson. The club was saved from liquidation in 1986 by the efforts of Gibson and a progressive Labour council. Gibson’s name is sung home and away by Boro’s fans.
Norman Gettings, Cardiff

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This article appears in the 09 Mar 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's War of Terror