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16 March 2022

Letter of the week: Renewed world order

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By New Statesman

Jason Cowley writes that President Obama “wanted to act… but could not” after the chemical attack in Damascus in 2013 (Editor’s Note, 11 March). Having seen the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, I am ashamed that Labour helped defeat David Cameron’s proposal for British military support for action to deter such outrages.

That was the beginning of the end of the post-Cold War “new world order” – aggressive despots can now use chemical weapons with impunity. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has destroyed what was left of the global security framework. The renewed threat to Europe requires a far stronger continental alliance based on the shared interests of the European Union.

How can Labour cling to the nonsense of “making Brexit work” in these circumstances? Dangerous times require serious statesmanship. Britain depends on the security and prosperity of the EU, so we must re-engage.
John Home Robertson (former Labour MP), Paxton, Scottish Borders

Stalin’s library

Simon Sebag Montefiore in his article (“A tale of two dictators”, 11 March) mentions a “biography” of Ivan the Terrible upon which Stalin wrote the word “teacher”. As is shown in a facsimile in my book Stalin’s Library, the volume in question was a 1942 play about Ivan by Alexei Tolstoy – Stalin doodled the word several times on the back cover.

Stalin considered Ivan a patriotic tsar and admired his brutal defence of the integral unity of the early Russian state. He also had a high regard for the achievements of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, but saw none of them as his teacher. He looked down on all the tsars and thought he was doing a much better job of defending Russia from foreigners than they had.
Geoffrey Roberts, Emeritus professor of history, University College Cork, and author of “Stalin’s Library: A Dictator and His Books”

No way out for Putin

I’m sure I’m not the only reader apoplectic at Sir Andrew Cook’s letter (Correspondence, 11 March). Why should Vladimir Putin be given a way out? He should suffer defeat and humiliation. “A period of reflection followed by a comfortable retirement” – Khrushchev may have had blood on his hands but nothing approaching the same degree as Putin. As for the plan Cook wants to impose on Ukrainians, does he really think all those east of the Dnieper would choose to be a satellite of Russia? Has he heard of democracy, which is actually what the Ukrainians are fighting for?
Julie Brock, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

Get realist

In his takedown of John Mearsheimer’s realist perspective on international relations (“John Mearsheimer and the dark origins of realism”, NS Online, 8 March), Adam Tooze refers disdainfully to “platitudes about the security dilemmas of great powers” and “reaching for a well-worn toolkit of timeless verities”. Yet he concludes that war should be “recognised as a radical and perilous act, fraught with moral consequences”. Are we to be thankful for this refreshingly original aperçu?
Simon Marcus, Oakland, California

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Rethinking remakes

I agree with Rachel Cooke (The Critics, 11 March) that ITV’s rehashing of The Ipcress File is unnecessary. I don’t understand the craze for remaking good films; the only successful example is True Grit.

I also don’t know why both versions have to pin delinquency on Harry Palmer – and however good Tom Hollander is as Dalby, in the book he is 6ft 2in with long blonde hair and a moustache. Probably the best way to enjoy the ITV version is to disregard any connection with the book. Goodness knows what Len Deighton thinks of what’s been done to his creation.
Alexandra MacRae, Letham, Angus

Great Danes

As of today [13 March], Hamlet’s hometown of Elsinore (population 62,700) has taken in more Ukrainian refugees than the entire UK. Shakespeare was right; “something is rotten…” – but it is not in the state of Denmark.
S Upton Sjolin, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

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This article appears in the 16 Mar 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Russia’s War Goes Global