Monday, May 16, 2022

Putin’s Victory Day speech emotional but empty

Vladimir Putin had no victory to declare Victory Day in Ukraine. Nor did his speech at the Red Square Military Parade paint a clear picture of when or how victory would come.

Instead, the Russian president’s address on Monday seemed to suggest that the war that many had hoped would be brief and decisive, could turn into a long and brutal grind.

Victory Day commemorates another campaign of blatant determination: the Red Army’s offensive against the Nazi forces that eventually brought Soviet troops to Berlin, ending the European Theater of World War II. The suffering on the battlefield and among civilians was immense; The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in the war.

The pain of all deaths is combined with the defeat of valiant opponents to give a deep emotional resonance to Victory Day in Russia. Putin on Monday tried to portray the war in Ukraine as having the same high moral purpose as the fight against Adolf Hitler’s army.

He reiterated his frequent contention that Ukraine is a slave to Nazism and that war is necessary to repel a deadly aggressor – even though Ukraine had not infiltrated Russia and is led by a president, Volodymyr Zelensky, Those who are Jews and relatives lost in the Holocaust.

The strategy appears to be aimed at diverting attention from Russia’s failure to control the small Ukrainian army.

“The government has no more screws to turn. The brakes have clearly failed, and there is only one pedal left: facing what Russia is doing in Ukraine with the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. This explains why the Kremlin insists that in Ukraine it is fighting the neo-Nazis cultivated by the West,” wrote Andrei Kolesnikov, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, shortly before Victory Day.

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“Every word is a lie, of course,” he said, “but the regime has no other justification for what is happening in Ukraine. So the discourse has been limited to agitation and shouting.”

Ahead of the holiday, expectations were widespread that Putin would push for at least one unequal military success, which he could show in his speech. It may have been the city of Mariupol, but despite the Russian army ruining the city, a determined Ukrainian force still resists hiding in a steel mill.

Some speculated that the recent explosions in Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, where Russia has about 1,500 troops, may have been a provocation to justify Russia’s attempt to take control of the region until Victory Day. But Russia has bombed only one railway bridge in Ukraine which is Transnistria’s main transport link.

The most intense speculation was that Putin would use Victory Day to declare the fighting in Ukraine a full-fledged war rather than a “special military operation”, as the Kremlin insists, and that this would prompt a general mobilization. . in large numbers of new soldiers. But he didn’t do that either.

“There seems to be an awareness of the political risks in the house of national mobilization. So there is a real sense in which the Kremlin is facing increasing difficulties and dilemmas in this war, which it has chosen to highlight,” Nigel Gould-Davis, a fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the Associated Press. .

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In any case, the declaration of a national mobilization would not predict an early end to the war.

“mobilization is not like a button that you press and then suddenly Russia’s military might is greater than it was before. In mobilizing and not only making calls, but essentially recruiting the population, but they It also takes time to supply. And so it won’t make any immediate difference,” Gold-Davis said.

An indelible image for Victory Day is the dramatic photograph of a soldier raising the Soviet hammer and sickle flag over the Reichstag in 1945, ruining buildings that stretch to the skyline. Putin’s speech gave no indication of whether he envisioned a similar view of the occupation of Ukraine as the ultimate goal of the war, or whether Russia would settle for the division of the eastern republics that it has declared. Sovereign states.

And Putin has never explained what his call for “denial” of Ukraine meant.

The speech was full of emotion and self-justification, yet empty of information.

“It’s the dog that doesn’t bark,” said Gold-Davis. “There was no new announcement, but no clear path to the problems they’ve created for themselves.”

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Danica Kirka is a London-based writer covering international affairs, reporting from Russia and Ukraine.

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Nation World News Desk
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