European press roundup: Debates

Russia’s President Putin has compared his own actions with those of Peter the Great, whose 350th birthday was celebrated across the country on 9 June. Putin claims that it is now Russia’s turn to regain territory and cement it as part of the country, just as the Russian tsar sought to reconquer parts of Sweden in the Great Northern War. Europe’s press rejects this comparison.

A revealing smile

The remarks by the head of the Kremlin were telling in more ways than one, says Hospodářské noviny“Putin made clear that all the talk about Nato provocations or the need to denazify Ukraine were merely a screen for the true reasons for the attack on Ukraine. In fact, it is about territorial claims. … It was only the horrors of World War II that made territorial claims imposed by force obsolete. … Paradoxically, the president of a country that lost countless millions of people during World War II does not understand this. It is strange that the ruins of Mariupol don’t remind anyone in the Kremlin of Stalingrad. Putin feels he is on the same level as Tsar Peter, Bismarck or Napoleon. His self-satisfied smile was not pleasant to behold.”


The West’s stance plays a role

In contrast to Peter the Great, Putin detests anything that comes from the West, says Jornal de Notícias:

“We may be dealing with an ultimate Putin, that is, with a final leader whose stance is still based on resentment over the inevitable collapse of the USSR – Greater Russia. It’s unclear what will happen next. Will there be a leader even more belligerent and dangerous to Russia’s Western neighbours? Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz are right: it’s important not to humiliate Russia too much. Why? It was no pure coincidence that a nationalist such as Putin emerged after the end of the Cold War. … The behaviour of the West towards today’s Kremlin influences the future decisions of the Russians themselves.”


A distorted metaphor in many ways

Jutarnji list disagrees:

“Dictators like Putin do not understand that the rules that applied in the 18th century no longer apply 350 years later. In the times of Peter the Great, one did not negotiate with opponents, but beheaded them. What is more, his goal was to modernise Russian society and make Russia a European state. This is why he went down in the annals of history. In contrast to Peter, Putin has forced Russia into dark despotism, and that is what will be written about him 350 years from now. Unless he or someone like him decides in the meantime to press the nuclear button and precipitate the end of history so that nobody will be able to write about it anymore.”

Reprinted with permission from eurotopics.

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