Sunday, 21 September 2014

Jesus thought sodomy deserved the death penalty - and witchcraft too

Clearly Jesus, a first century rabbi, did not approve of the Sin of Sodom - or witchcraft - and thought both deserving of death. He wasn't against the death penalty and didn't disapprove of slavery, though He advised a rich young man to give away his worldly goods, which probably would have included his slaves.

I wonder what people would say if the Second Coming happens anytime soon. I considered this here.

London notes: 4 - Temple Bar

I couldn't work out what this extraordinarily beautiful gate was. I knew it wasn't there when I lived in London and yet it is so old. When i asked, I discovered it was Temple Bar, the last surviving gate to the once walled City of London, which until Victorian road-widening stood in Fleet St. After a very long absence from London it has returned and was placed close to St. Paul's in 2004. How out of touch I am.

Traitors' heads once adorned it, if adorned is the right word.

And then it all came back to me. I remember reading often as a schoolboy in the Peterborough column in the Telegraph about Temple Bar resting in a field in Hertfordshire. The full story is here.

I remember one Victorian memoirist - I was an insatiable but unselective reader in my early 20s -  said Somerset House is the most beautiful building in London. Norman Collins thought St. James's Palace was the building most typical of LONDON and I fully understand what he meant. I have enjoyed shocking people by saying the Lloyd's Building was my favourite and in fact it was once. I love Westminster Cathedral too even if it does, like the man said, resemble the bathroom department at Harrod's. But Temple Bar is now I think the loveliest building in central London. It is by Wren and is second only to his sublime Royal Maritime College, Greenwich, which is nowadays in London but once was not.

Almost equally wonderful is the demolition of the horrible 1960s buildings which I remember standing north of St. Paul's. Almost too good to be true. Let's pull down Centre Point next, even if it is listed.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

London notes 3

Above is a wonderful Miro print that I saw and loved in a shop in Cecil Court, off the Charing Cross Road, when I was in London recently.

A very intelligent Jewish American friend I dined with said two very interesting things about the Arab Israeli conflict. He said that Netanyahu doesn't want to make peace. He has everything he wants as things are - with settlers steadily encroaching on the West Bank. This, I saw as he spoke, is true. And he added
There's a strong case to be made by the Israelis and by the Arabs. Which you side with ultimately comes down to which you find more congenial.
I think there is a lot of truth in this too. 

I wonder which I find more congenial. I feel I love both. It is hard for a conservative not to love the Arabs who are so very much less modern than the Jews. Looking at the history of the country between 1917 and 1948 my sympathies lie with the Arabs because they were the ones squeezed out of their land, but at least since Arafat spurned Barak's in many ways overgenerous peace offer and Hamas came along things are more balanced. 

With the recent war in Gaza I think both sides are to blame but Hamas much more so. Hamas throw away the innocent lives of their own people in order to make war. I suppose it's comparable with the Communist resistance in the Second World War.

I saw a friend from college, now a frightfully well-paid City solicitor, who said to me that once you reach fifty you stop thinking that one day you'll do such and such and realise suddenly that this is it. Yes.

A charming Catholic priest told me from the depths of his armchair in his club that
When I was twenty all I wanted to do was find a way of spending my life drinking champagne every day and now I do.
How can he afford it? 
Simple. I don't have a car.
What a wise man. I rejoice that I don't have one. If one does not marry and does not drive life can be sweet.

Dinner at Buck's with two young fogeys one of whom did his Finals at Cambridge wearing white tie - something which everyone does at Oxford but long ago fell into desuetude at Cambridge. His friend who is twenty years his junior works in Turnbull and Asser but will start university. He could almost have been forty but is really twenty. They seemed the same age - for young fogeys are ageless. The younger man reminded me of Claud Hulbert. He seems to have always had a psychological urge to be a figure from a 1930s. He says members of the working class who meet him on buses and at stations treat him with kindness and politeness and understand that he is a figure from another age.

As always my abiding impression of England is of how much nicer and more polite people are than in the 1980s. London does not seem any more cosmopolitan than it did then but that's because I stay in the very centre - Trafalgar Sq. and Piccadilly Circus always were full of tourists and St James's is the last redoubt of Edwardian England as it was in the 80s. But Jermyn St. no longer feels exclusive, which is sad. Jermyn St. shirt shops in the 1980s were all about snobbery but now are not at all except for the last four real ones. The clubs of St. James's have women in the libraries which is where one feels their presence as most intrusive and young men tieless and in jeans at the weekends. What would Monsignor Gilbey have thought? 

Only the Charing Cross Road's second hand bookshops and the Brompton Oratory seem eternal and changeless.

The English quite like the Scots but much prefer the Irish

I am a passionate Unionist because I love Great Britain including Scotland, though I have never been there. Of course I like Ireland more, but that's a different kind of love. The English are affectionately amused by foreigners, are mildly fond but fairly indifferent to the Scots and Welsh but, despite the IRA bombs, they love they Irish (the Celts, not the Northern Ireland Prods). But Scots are part of the family - like Geordies or the Manx.

I do sympathise with the more romantic nationalists, the ones who love the monarchy, not the ones who hate the Tories and the lairds, but i am not sure about nationalists who want an independent Scotland to attract large numbers of immigrants from around the world and are happy to be ruled by the European Union. And I am aware of a contradiction in my attitudes. I want Belgium and Italy to split up except for fear it would lead Scotland to leave, just as the Easter rising led to independence for India.  But now that danger has been removed, for at least a generation, long live the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies!

My friend Alex Woodcock-Clark who is Scottishish - at least he lives in Scotland - put it beautifully on Facebook

One of the sad things about the aftermath of the referendum is that ill-feelings still subsist though the debate and discussion are now over. So many friends have communicated to me, both publicly and privately, including my postman, that their feelings towards me can never be as warm as once they were since they felt it wrong of me to end my every sentence I addressed to them '...,you traitor'.

Friday, 19 September 2014

My country has been saved

The very good news that my country will not cease to exist started my day. Because though I and all English are English first, British a long way second, Great Britain is my country.

I wish devolution could be undone but it cannot - and devolution to English regions or worse an English parliament would be disastrous. The solution that the Tories have in mind is the right one, that Scotch MPs should not vote on matters that do not concern them. This was the solution proposed in 1886, the first time Home Rule almost became law. Mr. Gladstone said then,

"If Ireland is to have domestic legislation for Irish affairs they cannot come here for English or Scottish affairs."
I think Alistair Darling should be given the Thistle, though that is up to Her Majesty.  

David Cameron is the man who came close to destroying Great Britain, acting, it seems, on Mr. Osborne's advice. Also to blame are John Smith and Tony Blair, the two 1974 election results and perhaps Margaret Thatcher.

We now have Scotland in the Union against the will of 45% of Scots. This needs addressing and, much as I regret its necessity, 'devomax' will address it.

Three fifths of Romanians think things were better under communism

31% of Romanians think life is better now than before the 1989 revolution, while 60.5% don’t agree.

My unscientific poll of Bucharest taxi drivers would suggest at least 80% and perhaps 90% of those old enough to remember think things were better in the 1980s.

In some respects they were of course, especially for the less intelligent classes. And not just them. The parties were much better then and everyone had time for books and conversation. Only two hours television a day was a great blessing. I imagine rather a lot of things were better but this does not stop me hating communism. And of course the taxi drivers I polled were thirty years younger in the early 1980s. Youth's sweet scented manuscript had in most cases not yet closed for them.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

What psychologists call 'projection'

Ken Livingstone on Boris Johnson in this week's Spectator: 
‘Everybody who’s never met him loves him and the people closest to him loathe him.’

Neil Kinnock a quarter of a century ago:
'Everyone loves Ken except those who know him.'

The United Kingdom, like any country, is about poetry

Today is the referendum in Scotland and though the polls show the narrowest of victories for preserving the Union and I cannot believe the Scots would really vote for independence - still, I have to admit that my country is in grave danger. These are the real dangers my country faces: Scottish nationalism, Muslim terrorists and mass immigration, particularly from the Third World.   Irish nationalism and the IRA were a great threat but Mr. Blair gave in to them while taking part in a demented and disastrous 'war on terrorism' in Asia.

Russia is not a great threat to us, much as I dislike Mr. Putin, nor ISIS nor people in the Middle East. Not global warming either.

My message to any Scots who read this and who have not yet voted is simple. The Union is about poetry, the poetry of Great Britain, the poetry of what Stanley Baldwin always called the British race, even though no such race exists. It is NOT about the NHS or tax rates or the Barnett formula. 

Actually, I'm not sure I want unpoetic people in my country, but I want their votes. And the economy of the universe requires prosaic people to deliver things on time and get things done.

I am old enough to remember as a child the 1975 referendum on whether England should leave the EEC, forerunner to the EU - which seemed to be fought almost entirely over the price of groceries. 

I once had to research Lord Seafield, the last Lord Chancellor of Scotland, and it was easily the afternoon's work I most enjoyed in my working life - i should have been a historian. He said as the Act of Union passed the Scotch House of Lords
'There's ane end of ane auld sang'.
One writer said he said this contemptuously but I am sure his tone was nothing of the sort.

Independence would be the end of another old song and a very beautiful one indeed. It would inflict damage on the English soul that centuries would not heal. 

I agree with Tim Stanley who said today:
Whoever wins, we all lose. This campaign has irritated the English. Our leaders have bribed the Scots to stay - and you can expect anger about that.
It is better for everyone that they are bribed and stay than unbribed depart, but where does this leave our island story?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Texas should have remained independent?

Zachary Taylor was my hero when I was 8 partly because he conquered Texas, partly because I loved the name Zachary.

On the other hand I couldn't see what right the Americans had to steal Mexican land and still can't, but that's how powerful countries behave in their backyards, as Putin has shown us.

Now Mexican immigrants are retaking the Lone Star State. Texans can't do anything to stop this because Yankees - that is, Northerners - decide the US's (very liberal) immigration policy.

These days I think if I were Texan I would want to secede from the USA, though this I know has been tried before. The proof, by the way, that the South was morally entitled to secede from the union in 1860 is that no-one would argue now that, were a large majority in the South to favour separation, they should be stopped by all-out war. The idea is grotesque. In comparison with bombing the American South to bits, even the 2003 invasion of Iraq would look statesmanlike and justified.

I never understood why Texas did not remain an independent country - it was one for several years and had a legation in London - in St. James's St, where Berry Bros. & Rudd now is. Texas would be in a much better place now if it had. And a USA of 49 states might have done better too. It would probably not have been spared the disastrous George W. Bush - he was always a pretend Texan - but it would have spared President Lyndon B. Johnson, the most left-wing president the States ever had.

President John  Tyler, who against opposition succeeded in persuading the USA to annex Texas, was recently described by one American historian as the best American president of all time. He was president from 1841 to 1845. Remarkably he has, or at least had until recently,  two grandsons alive. Read more here. To realise how odd that is, bear in mind Queen Victoria who came to the throne as a teenager shortly before he became president. She was 29 years younger than him. Her grandchildren included King George V, who died of old age in 1935, the Kaiser and Tsar Nicholas II. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

4,000 protest in London to preserve the United Kingdom and 150,000 to protest against Israeli actions in Gaza

Ben Judah in addition to being a wonderful writer and annoyingly young (25) has tweeted something which deserves to be republished here in its own post.

What does it say about London in the twenty first century that 4k people come out to protest breaking up Union but 150k for support Gaza?

The answer is clear. It says decadence. 

Why do Europeans care about Gaza and not Ukraine? I suspect because Ukrainians and (most) Israelis are white. If Israelis were massacring Yazzidis not ISIS we should hear much more about it.

This is the tradition in British politics that wants a moral foreign policy, the people AJP Taylor wrote about in his own favourite of his books, The Dissenters. They were sometimes right as over the Crimean War, the Boer War and the Second Iraq War and often wrong, as over Suez. Whether the Peace Pledge Union was wrong before 1939 depends on whether you think we were right to go to war in 1939. CND was wrong although the arms race was probably unnecessary and perhaps the Cold War was too.

The EU-Moldova agreement and the soft tyranny of human rights

All over the blogosphere (dread word, as Wallace Arnold would have said) unpleasant people and perfectly nice ones are siding with Vladimir Putin as he invades a sovereign state and causes unnecessary deaths. Why? Because they see that he is opposing the EU.

Opposing the EU and political correctness, which right-wingers on the net often call 'cultural Marxism'. 

It's paradoxical that the people who blame Stalinists of the Frankfurt School for political correctness (please click on this very important link) hope that a fairly unreconstructed former KGB man will deliver them from it. But then history is full of paradoxes, ironies and black humour.

I disagree with those libertarians, who should know better, who think Mr. Putin 'is better than the scoundrels who rule us' (Dr. Sean Gabb). Mr. Putin is much, much worse - more authoritarian and less democratic than the Euro-establishment and immeasurably more corrupt. Read Ben Judah's and Masha Gassen's excellent books on him. 

From Moldova's point of view, so far the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been a good thing. Moldova has now been offered a trade agreement by the EU which would have been impossible otherwise. I hope Moldova agrees to it but one of the things Moldova has to sign up to in order to do make a very preliminary step towards integrating with the EU, which does not hold out the promise of Moldova ever joining, is to make illegal many sorts of forms of discrimination, including discrimination against homosexuals. 

This is highly controversial in Moldova (as in Ukraine) and is used by the Russians as a good stick with which to beat the EU - 'a vote for agreement with the EU is a vote for homosexual marriage'.  

Making racial discrimination illegal in the 1960s in the UK, whether you approve or not, was undoubtedly a great restriction on freedom of contract and an extension of state power. It was very unpopular and the Conservatives fought to have it apply only to companies, not to individuals. Speaking in opposition to race relations law Enoch Powell made his famous 'Rivers of Blood' speech. Later sexual discrimination also became illegal.

Margaret Thatcher, who was never a social conservative, went along with the anti-discrimination laws and QUANGOs she inherited, but in my judgement conservatives should want individuals to be able to to discriminate or not to discriminate without fear of the police. This has nothing to do with whether discrimination is or is not objectionable but is about people to being free to make their own decisions.

I remember when after some years of study I returned to work in the late 1990s I found the workplace had been transformed by draconian political correctness and feminism - and this while a Conservative administration was in office. Now employment law and law in general is even more restrictive.

I clearly remember rejoicing back then, because I care very deeply about freedom, that only sexual and racial discrimination were illegal, not discrimination on religious grounds or discrimination against homosexuals. These things, too, have subsequently been made illegal - and throughout, it appears, the EU. What is truly shocking, I discover now, is  that there is no longer any point my campaigning to change these laws, because they are embedded in EU law and cannot be changed, not at least without a decision of the whole EU. And there is no EU-wide political community to persuade our masters to make such a change, which directly opposes the ideology they believe in. There is no demos and therefore no democracy.

I hope Moldova does sign up and I also hope - but certainly do not believe - that Eastern European countries like Poland and Romania fight within the EU to get rid of these restrictions on freedom. I am pretty certain that will never happen and so I do understand why many people in Moldova want nothing to do with the EU.

The wind is blowing in the opposite direction. Rights nowadays in EU law do not mean freedoms - they mean entitlements.

In Romania a constitutional amendment last year to entrench the legal definition of marriage as a "union between a man and a woman" - an innocent enough thing you might think - was defeated because the Social Democrat Prime Minister Victor Ponta said it would give Romania as bad a press in Western Europe as Hungary had received by enacting a similar provision. What the amendment simply meant, of course, was that homosexual marriage could not be introduced without a referendum, so the amendment was not an illiberal or authoritarian measure but a very democratic one. Yet the Romanian government knew they would be accused of being antidemocratic if they did not quash it. 

“When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

Why can't every country decide for herself on whether people can marry people of their own sex and a thousand other questions, from caning in schools to capital punishment (I am opposed to both, by the way) to smoking in restaurants (it should be up to the restaurant owner to decide) and so on and so on? 

This is not a minor sideshow but the essence of what living in a democracy means.

Still, Russia is much less free and much less democratic - this is not a point of view but a fact.

Monday, 15 September 2014

ISIS supporter is in favour of independence for Scotland

Embedded image permalink

I almost expected him to add: 
...and tax cuts for small businesses.

I wonder if he has a vote in the Scotch referendum. He might well have. That's the thing about referendums, everyone has a vote. 

I see Abu Aminah's twitter account has now been suspended, perhaps after an intervention by the constabulary.  

I think he should be allowed to tweet in favour of ISIS, so long as he doesn't threaten a breach of the peace, but I wrote more here about how the police spend their time patrolling twitter.

North Korea backs independence for Scotland too.

Is Putin playing chess or poker?

James Stavridis, Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, which is the oldest American postgraduate college specialising in international affairs, said in a New York Times article, on September 1 

The really ironic aspect here is that a re-energized, restrengthened NATO is Vladimir Putin’s worst nightmare, and yet it’s his tactical actions that have done just that.

This is why, when fans of Putin tell me he is very intelligent I hold to my view that he is very cunning but not very clever. 

Tactical, not strategic is perhaps saying the same thing. Masha Gassen says something like that when she says he only thinks six weeks ahead.

Henry Kissinger said last week that

The Russians play chess; we play poker.

For a Russian who admires Putin's strategic vision, click here.

But others disagree.  Edward Lucas said recently that
...we're playing chess and Putin's playing poker
but didn't elaborate in the interview I read. This article agrees.  

Back in April so did Gary Kasparov, who ought to know:

He’s very good at raising the stakes all the time. I believe he has a very weak hand, but he’s very good at bluffing... The rule in dealing with these kind of people is very simple: The sooner you stop them, the less the price you will pay.

As I play neither chess nor poker I cannot judge very well, but I do wonder if Dr Kissinger is thinking of Gromyko. However, even if this is poker, I do not think we should have called the Russian bluff by arming Ukraine. 

Read more here:

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Ian Paisley: I do not mourn this unprincipled demagogue and hypocrite

I cannot let Ian Paisley's death go by unmarked. I do not mourn this unprincipled demagogue, who finally betrayed his people. He reminds me of Arthur Scargill who did the same.

I regret that we made terms with the IRA exactly when they were losing militarily but I do not expect most people to agree with his. i do expect people to agree with my view of Paisley. 

The always excellent Ruth Dudley Edwards speaks for me here. As Hurree Jamset Ram Singh would put it, her excellentness is terrific! 
The Daily Telegraph obituary tells his story.

I disliked him but thought he believed in principles. It turned out he did not. I disliked Edward Kennedy more and, like Kennedy's death, Paisley's brings this squib by Belloc to mind.

The Politician, dead and turned to clay,

Will make a clout to keep the wind away.

I am not fond of draughts, and yet I doubt

If I could get myself to touch that clout.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Vladimir Putin is not a conservative but is trying on social conservative clothes

Here is an interesting article by Sir Anthony Brenton, former British Ambassador to Russia, (like the Prime Minister he served he prefers to use the chummy cognomen, Tony) arguing that Western countries handled Ukraine very clumsily, sanctions against Russia won't work and that Russia is entitled to insist that Ukraine not join NATO. I agree with him on the first and third points and on the desirability of calming things down to a certain point, but some sort of sanctions are certainly needed. 

He is right when he says

Negotiating an acceptable level of autonomy for East Ukraine will be much harder. The Russians are in possession, and will not let go until their concerns are met. Meanwhile Ukraine’s President Poroshenko has to deal with a nationalist Right whom every concession will enrage. Here, finally, sanctions could be of some use, with the offer to lift them helping to lubricate the way towards an agreement.
The whole affair raises serious questions about the competence of Western policymaking towards Russia. The one route out of this mess has been visible for months. But let us not recriminate. There are still big prizes to play for. A democratic, prosperous, Western-leaning (but not allied) Ukraine is bound to become an important exemplar for the Russians next door. And the reopening of Western economic ties with Russia is crucial to the process of pulling that country, however slowly and erratically, towards European normality too.
I have given the view that Putin is a conservative more thought. 

Marxism is inherently violent but the brutality of Lenin and Stalin is specifically Russian. So was the brutality of the Tsars and the far sighted Stolypin, who came close to making Russia a modern economy, with a constitutional monarchy and representative government. Stolypin, bloodstained as he was, was the only important Russian figure who does deserve to be called a conservative.

Clearly Mr Putin, who has a portrait of Czar Peter the Great in his room, is no more a conservative than the Czars were. They were reactionaries, which is something else, and very brutal, absolutist reactionaries, not nostalgic reactionary-aesthete-fogeys like me. Mr. Putin is a brutal reactionary too, if only because democracy threatens his regime as freedom threatened the Communists and the Tsars. Increasingly he has created an ideology of traditionalist social conservatism but, though no doubt his contempt for much of what in the West are called human rights is sincere, the former KGB do not become conservatives so easily. 

I don't think it is useful to call him a fascist because he is not one, but he is as antidemocratic as a fascist or any communist.

The principle objection of conservatives to many of the misnamed human rights which nowadays obtain in the EU is that they restrict freedoms (the freedom to say what you like about various sensitive subjects, for example). Freedom of speech is not something that Vladimir Putin can credibly defend, though he did it when he sheltered Edward Snowden, nor are other freedoms.

Conservatives do not only believe in freedom, of course, or they would be (classical) liberals. Conservatives also believe in hierarchy and tradition and a divine order in the world - which is why most conservatives dislike, for example, single-sex marriage - but no Burkean or Disraelian can like the hierarchy of the former KGB, turned business leaders, or a tradition that includes Stalin as the hero of the Great Patriotic War. Owen Matthews finds Strelkov, the Russian who ran the Donetsk 'republic' more frightening than Putin and he probably is, but does, at least, seem genuinely to believe in a Christian, anti-Communist tradition and he knows Putin is a corrupt KGB man. 

Mr Putin says that the Americans provoked war in Ukraine to revive NATO - an interesting idea that he may well really believe.  Whether this was the intention, it is certainly the effect. Interestingly, unlike the Americans, the EU probably didn't really have much interest in Ukraine. The EU has its problems, including with Eastern European immigrants, especially Romanian gypsies, and doesn't want more enlargement for a long time to come. 

Mr Putin does not understand that for America spreading democracy and spreading American influence come to much the same thing. Or rather he does.

The truth is that American attempts to help Ukraine be a free democratic society succeeded far better than anyone dared hope - at one point there were said to be a million people in the Maidan. They were people wanting the whole corrupt system to go, as people in Romania want the whole corrupt system to go, which is why I had demonstrators encamped near my flat for weeks in early 2012 and had to walk home through tear gas. I am with those people, who included some fascists, some leftists, some homosexual activists and a very wide spectrum of hopeful people, rather than with the Kremlin or the KGB or the foreigners who back the Kremlin - or, for that matter, with the American hawks or neo-cons either.

In the end, this is not 1938 all over again, as Edward Lucas, Anne Applebaum and Ben Judah think, but one thing does stand out - that Putin is a brutal and authoritarian leader, not any sort of democrat. Russia may never become a democracy, her tradition is autocracy, but if Eastern Europe prospers within the EU it will in the long term be hard for Russia to take another path. For Ukraine I think things look more hopeful. 

There is a good chance that Ukraine will move towards Europe and away from Moscow, thanks partly to Putin's invasion, but the problem remains that a good outcome for Ukraine - some degree of prosperity, democracy and clean government - is a grave threat to Putin's own hold on power in Russia and he is in a position to do a lot to prevent this outcome.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Ukrainians defeated Hitler's Germany

Figures for USSR dead in World War Two are somewhere between 24 and 29 million - of whom 7-10 million were Ukrainian. 

Most of the three and a half million who died in Stalin's famines were Ukrainian as did hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians for political reasons in 1938 and 1939.

Hitler was a fool to attack the USSR while still at war with the UK - though no-one imagined how powerful the USSR was. It had just been defeated by Finland and Lord Halifax had told the British cabinet in 1939 that Poland was militarily more powerful than the Soviet Union. 

Hitler was also a fool not to enter Ukraine as a liberator. The Ukrainians, even though considered subhuman by Nazis, understandably hoped nevertheless that the Germans would liberate then from Communist Russia and from Poland. Many in Western Ukraine fought a war mostly against Stalin and the Poles - but on occasion the Germans and killing Jews in some instances too. They massacred almost 90,000 Poles mostly civilian and largely women and children. The Ukrainian leader Bandera was prevented from being a war criminal for most of the war by being held in a German concentration camp. Western Ukraine is dotted with his statues. In Donetsk he is abominated. Khrushchev had him murdered in West Germany in 1959.

These wartime hatreds have been reignited deliberately by Putin in rather the way that Milosevic did in Yugoslavia.

A. J. P. Taylor in The Origins of the Second World War said,

'Hitler was a rational, though no doubt a wicked statesmen',
but he was certainly in Jungian terms an intuitive not a thinking type and acting on his intuition he did crazy things, craziest of all being to declare war on America. Presumably had he not done so, America would not have made war against him and Stalin would have defeated Germany with such help as Britain could lend.

In such circumstances presumably there would have been no Cold War and a united Germany would have been Communist. No-one can know for sure, but counterfactual speculation is a very useful antidote to the common historicist misunderstanding that how things happened was how they had to happen.

Ukraine is what Russia might have been without oil, gas and Putin

Ukraine under Yanukovych was what Russia might have been had she not had oil and gas and Vladimir Putin. On the other hand when oil and gas prices fall we shall see what Putin's real achievements are. 

In many ways oil can be a curse for countries that have it. Oil revenues often make economic inefficiency - and autocracy - acceptable.

Ukrainians are better off without rust belt

This is an interesting article about what people in Donetsk think, included this piece of information.

In the first half of 2013, Donetsk region contributed 3.85 billion hryvnia to government revenues but received 13.1 billion in spending including grants and subsidies. The region thus received about 720 million US dollars (at the present exchange rate) more than it contributed over that six-month period. 

For comparison, the Lviv region of western Ukraine made a net contribution of more than 356 million hryvnia (28 million dollars) to the treasury over the same period. According to the government’s official gazette, that means that someone living in a place like Makiyivka effectively benefited from 142 dollars in government spending, while a Lviv resident handed over ten dollars.

Ukrainians should not concentrate on getting back this rust belt, but look westwards - which has the attraction of being precisely what Vladimir Putin does not want them to do. 

Gwynne Dyer takes the same view here.
Let the rebels run the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk (Kiev has no choice in that), but DON’T integrate them into some rejigged federal state where they would hold a veto. And DON’T recognise their legitimacy if they declare independence or join Russia either. Treat them as another Crimea, in other words.
Leave the Russians the task of pouring huge, ongoing subsidies into what is really an immense open-air industrial museum, and concentrate instead on making an economic and political success of the rest of Ukraine – which would still have 90 per cent of the population. 
And wait. Wait for corruption to dwindle and prosperity to grow in Ukraine, as it probably will when the country gets closer to the European Union. Wait for Putin to grow old and/or for Russia to get distracted by events elsewhere. And don’t get any more people killed when further fighting will just lose you more territory.
And a very good article in Deutsche Welle also agrees.

On the other hand, Ukrainians need to be very careful not to tempt Mr. Putin to take more of their territory. I am surprised and relieved that he has not gone further this time, but he can always do so in the future, perhaps to create a useful land bridge between Russia and Crimea. Even if Ukraine can live with frozen conflicts, she also has an unpredictable and violent neighbour and no global policeman will come to the rescue if Russia attacks again. It is this, rather than Mr Putin's military victory, which is the reason why Russia has won this conflict, for the time being. 

But he has lost the hearts and minds of Ukrainians in Kiev and this will count in the long run, as will sanctions and lost investments. It is true that Russians are inured to suffering but the generation that suffered during the war and under Khrushchev and Brezhnev is giving way to one that wants to consume, rather than go without. 

Just like young Ukrainians. 

I cannot see Putin's extraordinarily corrupt system of government standing up in the long-term against the success of free market economics. Russians too will want something better, despite their perennial tradition of autocracy and isolation from the West. Looking at her history, I do not know if Russia will ever have free institutions, but if Eastern Europe is a success it is hard to see why Russia will not copy parts of the EU model, with adaptations. 

But, in any case, in the long term we are all dead.