Ukraine war: what need for historical comparisons?

In a video speech to the Israeli Knesset on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of Moscow envisaging a "final solution" to destroy the people of Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war against Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently been compared to Hitler and Stalin. Useful or dangerous? Europe's press is divided.

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Handelsblatt (DE) /

Like Stalin and Hitler

In Putin's case it makes perfect sense to draw historical comparisons, Handelsblatt explains:

“To put it provocatively: he's a Stalin - who suffered from paranoia and massacred his people at will. And he strongly resembles Hitler in his contempt for other nations. Putin's anger against the Ukrainians is as boundless as Hitler's hatred of the 'Slavs', whom he classified as subhumans. Like Hitler, for whom the 'Lebensraum in the East' was territory marked out for the superior Aryan race, Putin claims Ukraine as a buffer against the West. ... Domestically, Putin, like Stalin, is having his environment purged. He calls critics 'scum and traitors'. ... The hope remains that Ukraine will become Putin's Stalingrad, to use another historical parallel.”

Visão (PT) /

Mariupol is the new Stalingrad

For Visão, the Ukraine war has reached a turning point:

“The whole world wishes that it will not happen but even if Mariupol is completely occupied - if there is anything left to occupy, that is - it will never fall into the attackers' hands, just as Stalingrad never fell into German hands. Those who invade will also be surrounded, decimated and cut off from their logistical support. Mariupol is the symbol of the Ukrainians' unshakeable will not to bow to Russian power and not to relinquish any free or sovereign territory. This battle - which will go down in history and which has thousands of anonymous but tough and invincible heroes - coincides with a clear turning point in the war in Ukraine.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Zelensky will be forgiven for this

The Ukrainian president's unfortunate historical comparison won't really hurt his image, Corriere del Ticino notes:

“Despite his somewhat reprehensible attempt to compare the Ukrainian tragedy to the Holocaust - overlooking the fact that Ukraine itself has carried out anti-Semitic actions several times in the past - he manages to keep people on his side, also thanks to his courageous decision not to leave the country. A gesture that - perhaps more than many others - has convinced the citizens and leaders of Europe, who are now openly siding with Kyiv.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Inappropriate and dangerous

Historical comparisons are pointless when judging the present situation, The Guardian puts in:

“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. ... Such comparisons are odious. As a guide to the present, let alone the future, history is for smart alecks and podcasts. ... 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. ... Most wars are the result of history distorted.”