Russia’s Victory Day has been redesigned many times during the reign of President Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin and his choreographers have increasingly militarized the memorial holiday, showcasing more advanced military hardware and adding political twists to weaponize the memory of the Great Patriotic War. Using the enormous war casualties as a cultural reference point to blame the West for disrespect: It has constantly complained that Western historians and leaders fail to recognize the overwhelming importance of the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany – a testament to its foundation lying goal to humiliate Russia.
So what will Putin pull out of his hat this Monday as Russia celebrates its victory over the Nazis while mired in the midst of a conflict that the Kremlin (absurdly) claims is being fought to denazify Ukraine?
Will he officially declare war and drop the pretense that Russia is only involved in a “special military mission” across the border? Or would that risk shifting the narrative too sharply and signaling to ordinary Russians that the invasion went seriously wrong?
Could he seize the opportunity to announce a full-scale mobilization or the call-up of reservists to replenish the exhausted ranks of his fighting invasion force? And how would that go down with the mothers of Russian soldiers, who have previously been a thorn in the side of the authorities and have already demanded transparent casualty figures from a reluctant Kremlin? Western officials estimate Russia’s death toll could already be 20,000 – 5,000 more war deaths than its forces have suffered in Afghanistan in 10 years.
Victory Day is meant to be uplifting and positive — a patriotic occasion to project invincibility and confidence, a play to underscore Russia’s importance as a world power, not a day for acknowledging setbacks. But Putin has few good options.
One thing he could do would be to take the opportunity to brag about petty “triumphs” – the sack of Mariupol or the capture of Kherson.
And that may be enough, thanks to the power of Kremlin propaganda over the country, partially relegated to the dystopian Stalin era, with a vicious suppression of dissent and the forced closure of the few remaining sources of independent news and commentary.
Ukrainians now often complain that it is impossible to convince relatives in Russia of the horrors being inflicted there – state propaganda works. Most Russians get their news from state-controlled television networks, and when the television claims the country’s army is successful, why not believe the claims? After all, the added economic difficulties are just the price to pay to protect Mother Russia from enemies. And Western sanctions have yet to affect the lives of most Russians beyond the wealthy in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
But given Putin’s obsession with anniversaries, most seasoned observers suspect the Russian leader wants to mark Monday with even more fanfare.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has endangered Putin could use May 9 to declare: “We are now at war with the Nazis of the world and we need to mass mobilize the Russian people.” Wallace added in a radio interview in London that Putin “set the ball rolling and set the stage for him to be able to say, ‘Look, this is a war against the Nazis now, and what I need is more people.’”
Ukraine’s intelligence and security chiefs have also hinted that the Kremlin may be preparing for a broader mobilization – something the Kremlin has denied. In Kyiv has a think tank recommended that Russian authorities could even parade captured Ukrainians – with Putin copying Joseph Stalin, who enraged Adolf Hitler in July 1944 by parading around 57,000 German POWs through the Russian capital.
Western diplomats consider this scenario unlikely, describing it as too macabre and unnecessarily provocative, although caution and prudence have not been conspicuous features of the Kremlin of late. This week, the normally more sure-footed Sergei Lavrov, the country’s longtime foreign minister, baselessly insulted Israel – which has tried to maintain cordial relations with Moscow – by claiming that Hitler had “Jewish blood.”
But there were hints from Russian state television that something big could be about to happen as star presenters have become alarmingly even more belligerent towards NATO and increasingly framed the clash in Ukraine as a competition between Russia and the Western alliance.
In the last few days, the rebellious rhetoric has increased included a chilling nonchalance about the risks of a nuclear slugfest when Margarita Simonyan, head of the Kremlin-run RT media, declared in a broadcast last week that she would be ready to accept Putin’s unleashing of a nuclear war with NATO.
“The most incredible outcome, that all this will end in a nuclear strike, seems more likely to me than the other course of events,” she said. “We’re going to go to heaven and they’re just going to croak,” the show’s host interjected, citing an old Putin comment. “We’re all going to die anyway,” Simonyan replied.
Similarly, another top presenter, Olga Skabeyeva, who hosts Rossiya 1’s show 60 Minutes, recently declared: “God is with us. And with Ukraine – the devil.” When the threat of a nuclear exchange arose, she simply said: “We are starting from scratch.”
Of course, Russian state television’s focus on the likelihood of a full-blown world war can be simply intimidating to give the West “food for thought,” as Putin commented as he watched the launch Russia’s newest ultra-modern ballistic missile. But with Russians being told day after day that they face an existential threat, the Kremlin might finally stage something that matches what Putin’s mouthpiece is saying.
The ramp-up in anti-NATO rhetoric has already coincided with a surge in rocket attacks on weapons depots and routes for Western-supplied weapons within Ukraine – an attempt to ban Western equipment, which makes a big difference on the battlefield and has stalled device Russian army.
A bold declaration of war would be a domestic gamble for Putin, one that ties his political destiny even more closely to the outcome in Ukraine, and he has already taken enormous risks in order to achieve his goal of redressing the outrage – as he sees it – of the collapse of the Soviet Union . However, there are signs that he is coming under increasing pressure from some of the security crats around him – pressure to get bigger and tougher.
https://www.politico.eu/article/vladimir-putin-russia-victory-day-parade-march-military-great-patriotic-war-ukraine-nato/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication What will Putin get out of his Victory Day hat? - POLITICS