As enticing as comparisons with the past can be, it’s geography that holds the key to understanding the war in Ukraine
No, the war in Ukraine is not like Brexit. No, the Russians are not Nazis, nor are the Ukrainians. No, Boris Johnson is not Churchill or Pericles, and the third world war has not begun, unless we choose to begin it. Such comparisons are odious. As a guide to the present, let alone the future, history is for smart alecks and podcasts. It is bunk.
The only quarrel I have with Ukraine’s astonishing resistance to Russia is with its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s, recourse to historical parallels. It is understandable that Ukraine should want to browbeat Nato into joining its cause against Russia. Its struggle is existential. But to summon images of Europe’s blood-drenched 20th century is no way to do it. As for Johnson portraying the Kremlin as on a par with the EU – an organisation Ukraine wants to join – it is like having a playground idiot running the country.
Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist