As brutal dictators go, Russian President Vladimir Putin is up there with some of the worst, and for cynical bare-faced lying – about the provocation that “forced” him to invade Ukraine and about what has happened since – he is perhaps unparalleled. He is in the process of destroying two countries: Ukraine and his own, as Russia’s economy crashes, and the sanctions should not be lifted until Russia pays reparations.
We are blessed to live in an age that can hold tyrants to account. Thucydides wrote of Athens’ tyrannical invasion of Melios in 416BC, that in practice might makes right, that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. Ukrainians are certainly suffering, but this time the story should not end there.
If we take the long view, thuggish megalomaniacs like Putin are not unusual. The Bible records many such characters, and observes that they are subject to God, eventually reaping what they sowed. Take the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib who – as he pointed out to Hezekiah – had never failed to conquer and who mocked Hezekiah’s God. But, according to the Bible, he had to flee Jerusalem after 185,000 soldiers were cut down in the night; Assyrian records admit he failed to take the city.
Or Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar, notable for his cruelty, yet whom God called “my servant” – he was humbled by God and forced to eat grass in the field like an ox.
The Bible has much to say of tyrants and their end: “For tyrants will disappear, those who taunt will vanish, and all those who love to do wrong will be eliminated” (Isaiah 29:4). A century later God tells the Prophet Jeremiah “I will redeem you from the grasp of the terrible.”
I believe that Putin, too, will eventually be held to account.