In his otherwise excellent column (Politics, 25 February) Andrew Marr repeatedly calls Vladimir Putin “a great man”. Even in inverted commas that is a misleading and offensive choice of words, unless the pinnacle of human masculinity is being a testosterone-driven, power-crazy, ruthless, amoral egomaniac. In this case the term is ascribed to someone who is highly intelligent but evidently ever more deluded in his ambition of wanting to resurrect a “glorious” past (there are plenty of other authoritarian leaders who might be tempted similarly).
Truly great men, however, are rare, especially among political figures. Putin will rank among history’s great villains: Marr is right: “God rot him!” And our benighted Prime Minister – who, according to Marr, is “another leader with the touch of the ‘great man’” – now sees his hour come at last, his long-desired Churchillian moment, which will save his skin for the time being, all thanks to a horrific war in Europe unleashed by Russia’s modern-age tsar.
Ursula Haeckel, Liverpool
I wish to disagree with Andrew Marr’s description of Vladimir Putin and Boris Johnson as great men (Politics, 25 February), even if used ironically. Their actions are motivated primarily by self-interest, not the well-being of the people. Napoleon is not a good comparison against these two as, whatever his failings, he was also a creator and not a mere destroyer. He united a country divided by civil war, left it a legal system, “The Code Napoleon”, and an education system far superior to that of other European countries. Unfortunately, both Russia and the UK appear to have political systems that facilitate the rise of the worst possible men to power.
Derrick Joad, Leeds
Hope for change
Nothing can justify Vladimir Putin’s appalling actions (Cover Story, 25 February). But what if Nato had not been so intent on expansion in the 1990s and more aware of the understandable anxieties this raised in Russia? And what if London’s financial centres acted less as a clearing house for dubiously acquired wealth? And what if the concept of security could be reframed as depending less on military build-up and more on challenging issues such as inequality and climate change?
Duncan MacIntyre, Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire
Kate Mossman (Interview, 25 February) shows how much there is to admire about Angela Rayner. But while Rayner says that “you can’t say the voters were wrong” in 2019, they clearly were in electing the most self-serving, deceitful and dangerously incompetent Prime Minister in my nearly 80-year lifetime.
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey
Mary Slinger (Correspondence, 25 February) ascribed Russian aggression in part to Vladimir Putin’s gender, saying that “none of the tyrants throughout history have been women”. I suggest the relative paucity of female tyrants is more to do with leadership roles being held by men almost universally until the last century. Women have proven just as capable of being tyrannical or aggressively expansionist (eg Wu Zetian of China, Isabella I of Spain, Catherine the Great of Russia, Mary I of England).
Christopher Darlow, Stockport, Greater Manchester
Not living in the real world
Bruno Maçães (The Critics, 18 February) overlooked one important fact in his enthusiasm for virtual reality. Only our minds may migrate there. Our bodies remain in this world, requiring to be housed, fed, watered, rested and exercised. I don’t think we are in any danger of a mass migration.
Susan Peak, Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester
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This article appears in the 02 Mar 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Hero of our Times