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23 March 2022

Letter of the week: Europe’s new long game

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By New Statesman

Andrew Marr is right (Politics, 18 March) that the UK needs rapidly to get closer to the EU. Rather than equating the Ukrainian bid for sovereignty with the Brexit vote (as the Prime Minister did on 19 March), the country needs to recognise that Brexit’s whole premise has changed and that we need closer ties.

In terms of our security and common interests, the war in Ukraine has woken up the whole of Europe as to why we need to stand together. The Labour Party should seize this moment to raise its head above the parapet, ignite a new pro-European momentum and reassert a strong UK voice in Europe. If we are to survive as an independent continent, then Britain and Europe need to agree on their long game and stick to it together.
Mark Johnson, Lymington, Hampshire

Sovereign choice

Peter Wilby (Diary, 18 March) is not alone in suggesting that “the expansion of Nato into eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union was a grievous error”, thereby implying Nato is partly responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The rather dismissive term “eastern Europe” actually describes a number of countries that, after decades of Soviet occupation and oppression, emerged as democratic sovereign states. They freely applied to join Nato as part of a desire to achieve lasting security. It is arrogant to suggest that Western countries should have denied them this, or EU membership, for fear of upsetting Russia.

Drawing moral equivalence between the extension of Nato and the attempt by Russia to conquer a neighbouring country is misjudged. There is expansion and there is expansionism. In this case, the former is based on a democratic mandate, the latter on murderous military aggression. The notion that Vladimir Putin’s imperialist ambitions would have been nullified by the denial of collective security to those nations emerging from Soviet hegemony is wholly naive and misguided.
Brian Wilson, Glossop, Derbyshire

Peter Wilby asks pertinently: “Are those who noisily demand that Britain and its Nato allies enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine willing to enlist in the RAF?” Noisily or not, such a rhetorical question should perhaps be the sine qua non driving policy on military engagement. This doesn’t necessarily lead to pacifism. Both Winston Churchill and his deputy Clement Attlee had witnessed the horrors of the battlefront, which lent legitimacy to their war leadership. There was a generation of senior postwar politicians whose international vision and wisdom were also guided by war experiences – Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath and Denis Healey are just three that spring readily to mind.
Paul Thomson, Mobberley, Cheshire

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Power play

Rowan Williams (Another Voice, 18 March) scoffs at “secular geopolitical calculations” of the war in Ukraine and asserts that Vladimir Putin sees himself as the defender of Orthodox Christianity. He then analyses the Ukraine war in terms of a clash of religious ideas. In reality, Putin is concerned primarily with power, how to get it and how to keep it. He uses cultural issues, including religion, in pursuit of that power. In this sense he is behaving as tyrants have for centuries. Similarly, his allies in the Orthodox Church are primarily concerned with maintaining their own dominance.
Jim Young, Halesworth, Suffolk

Missed meaning

Few people would challenge Simon Sebag Montefiore’s argument (“A tale of two dictators”, 11 March) that any ruler of the Russian state faces some of the same issues as earlier rulers, but it is a pity that he precedes it by misinterpreting Karl Marx. The latter did not “joke that ‘history repeats itself twice, first as tragedy then as farce’”.

What Marx, in fact, wrote – at the beginning of “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” – was the following: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” His point, of course, was the absurdity of Bonaparte trying to claim the mantle of his uncle, Napoleon I.
Charlie Nurse, Cambridge

The Southend sound

Like Tim Burrows (“The town that wouldn’t grow up”, 18 March), I was raised in the less salubrious eastern side of Southend. There is one cultural item that he misses, the “Southend sound” of the mid- to late-Seventies: Dr Feelgood from nearby Canvey Island, the Kursaal Flyers, Eddie and the Hot Rods, etc. Feelgood’s guitarist Wilko Johnson and singer and harmonicist Lee Brilleaux put Southend’s name on the map with driving rhythm and blues that were a match for New York’s pre-punk revelry.
Tim Devane, London E17

The joy of repetition

I’m bemused by the antipathy herein towards the remake of The Ipcress File (Correspondence, 18 March). Personally I loved it. However, the reason I’m annoyed is the implication that it has no right to exist. You’d never hear in theatre-land: “Darling, we can’t possibly put on Twelfth Night, it’s been done before.”
Alastair Thomson, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

Don’t let them eat cake

Why does Anoosh Chakelian (Notebook, 18 March) tell us that the women of St Mabyn’s parish church in Cornwall intend to indulge in cream buns at their next meeting to discuss the refugee problem? I do not believe it and it was patronising to say so. Anyway, it’s Lent.
Kathy Priddis, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

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This article appears in the 23 Mar 2022 issue of the New Statesman, A Dream of Britain