The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Letter to Newsweek: 'I do believe in national character'

I was rather bemused to read in Denis McShane's article that "Berlin and Warsaw have not been able to agree on a common line on Russia for the past three centuries." Between 1795 and 1914, 'Warsaw' did not have a state to govern (Poland was ruled by Russia, Germany and Austria, with a brief partial independence under Napoleon) while between 1949 and 1989 both 'Berlin' and 'Warsaw' were ruled by pro-Soviet Communist parties.

Of course, I can appreciate the broader point, that certain nations by virtue of their history and geography are almost congenitally inclined towards a certain attitude towards the outside world (and in this case, regarding Russia). However, I think we can challenge this. Many observers thought German reunification would mean the return of great power politics in Europe. Margaret Thatcher said that "I do believe in national character... Germany is thus by its very nature a destabilizing rather than stabilizing force in Europe."

It has been almost two decades since German and European unifications, marking an unprecedented era of general peace (without the crises that marked earlier eras) in Europe. Clearly we are not slaves to our history.


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