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Macron should look to history to get a better handle on Putin

If the horrors of two world wars have taught us anything, it is that sometimes leaders cannot be talked down, argues Samantha David

French President Emmanuel Macron with Vladimir Putin at the Palace of Versailles in 2017 Pic: Frederic Legrand - COMEO | Shutterstock

November 11 commemorates Armistice Day, the end of World War One in 1918.

During that bloody conflict, around 20 million soldiers and civilians died and a further 21 million were wounded. It is a shocking statistic.

Out of the total 9.7 million soldiers killed, approximately 5.7 million were fighting for the Allies and 4.7 million were fighting for the Central Powers. Most of the casualties (both military and civilian) were caused by famine and disease.

France, which had a population of 39.6 million at that time, lost 1,697,800 people, which was 4.29% of the population. A further 4.2 million were wounded.

Paying respect

So it makes sense to commemorate the day when the killing stopped. Especially as no one can really explain what it was all for.

There are around 30,000 war memorials in France, ranging from modest stone crosses outside village churches to the acres of white military ones in the north of the country. 

Today people will lay wreaths of flowers, read poems, sing heroic songs, read pieces from books and the mayors of France will solemnly bow their heads for a minute of silence.

Read more: How to buy a Remembrance Day poppy in France – or a bleuet

The rest of us will stand in silent respect for those people who gave their lives for France.

History is repeating itself

But this year, it will be impossible to forget that just over a century later, it is all happening again.

Millions of people are fighting, dying and being wounded. Many more have become refugees. Families are broken apart, property destroyed, lives will never be the same. People are starving and cold, shivering in cellars and cells. It is horrific.

Russia suffered even more deaths than France during World War One. From a population of 175 million at the time, they lost 3.3 million people, representing 1.89% of their total population. 

In World War Two they lost up to 27 million people.

So the Russians know a thing or two about the horrors of war. They know what it is like to be invaded, to be besieged, to have their cities destroyed, to become refugees in their own country.

No lessons learned

Yet what has been learned? Russia has invaded Ukraine and, having failed on the battlefield, is busy destroying it as fast as it can.

The world is rightly horrified – and meanwhile President Macron is on the phone to Vladimir Putin asking him to be reasonable.

I understand what Macron is doing. Whatever you feel about his politics, he is an intelligent, civilised man. He cannot comprehend why anyone would behave so irrationally and brutally – let alone a world leader.

Macron cannot bring himself to believe the world is being held to ransom by a maniac.

Refusing to see sense

So while Putin continues weaponising food and energy, plotting ways to kill more people and leave the survivors gibbering and hungry in the wreckage, Macron is still looking for ways to make the Russian leader see sense.

Except, what history tells us is that sometimes world leaders refuse to see sense. Sometimes it just has to be beaten into them.

Macron needs to stop phoning Putin and start arming Zelensky.

Related articles 

Humanitarian ‘ship for Ukraine’ leaves French port with €8m of aid

Macron praises Ukraine heroism on first trip to country since invasion

French unknown soldier at Arc de Triomphe was one of eight

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