A parade of disguise: Global dictators hail Russia on the Victory Day
Addressing thousands of foreign guests and veterans, Putin chose to ignore the boycott, thanking Britain, France and the US for their “contribution” to the defeat of Germany. “Our fathers and grandfathers went through unbearable suffering, deprivation and losses,” Putin said, feting the country’s veterans and the “grandeur of Victory over Nazism”. “We are grateful to the people of Great Britain, France, and the United states for their contribution to victory,” he added, also thanking those who fought against the Nazis in other countries including Germany. The United states President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and many European leaders didn’t attend Russia’s Victory Day celebrations this weekend owing to the Kremlin’s recent annexation of Crimea and backing of eastern Ukraine separatists. Still Chinese leader Xi Jinping was in the audience for the
The United states President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and many European leaders didn’t attend Russia’s Victory Day celebrations this weekend owing to the Kremlin’s recent annexation of Crimea and backing of eastern Ukraine separatists. Still Chinese leader Xi Jinping was in the audience for the 70th anniversary military parade, and clearly seemed China to make a statement. Russian President Vladimir Putin shrugged off a boycott by Western leaders at a huge military parade held yesterday on May 9th to mark the 70th anniversary of victory in WWII before joining mammoth crowds for a commemorative march. Other presidents attending the event included Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, Raul Castro of Cuba, Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as did Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan, and his Turkmen counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the tyrant leaders whom have appalling human rights records and Jacob Zuma of South Africa, which also includes to its irony the President of the World’s largest democracy – India.
New Europe’s view of the Victory Day Parades was completely different. The Soviet Union’s Red Army was seen not as a liberator but as an oppressor. As soon as the Nazi yoke was lifted in 1945, populations across Eastern, Central, and Southeastern Europe were saddled with an oppressive totalitarian system that was to last until 1989 of which Russians & CIS states civilians are still living under. Even after regaining its independence, with few exceptions, New Europe never shook off its suspicion of Russia. New Europe, particularly Poland and the Baltic states, craved security. That is why joining the Euro-Atlantic structures of NATO and the EU was their goal. Entering those organizations meant being reunited with Europe. It meant feeling safe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and Russia’s military support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine punctured that sense of security. This interference was in sharp contrast to the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s and Russia’s quick war in Georgia in 2008. Those conflicts didn’t disturb New Europe’s sense of security, but in the case of Georgia, the warnings by some governments in New Europe of Russia’s intentions were vindicated. Old Europe had not taken those warnings seriously. But it was Putin’s attempts to destabilize Ukraine—in a bid to jeopardize the country’s chances to become a vibrant democracy with a market economy and tied to Europe —that changed Old Europe’s view of Putin’s Russia. The decision by most EU leaders or heads of state, with the exception of those of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to stay away from this year’s May 9 Victory Day Parade signifies a shift by Old Europe.
The old Europe doesn’t want to be associated with Putin’s triumphant nationalism and with a Kremlin that has manipulated history by invoking an antifascist narrative to justify its war against Ukraine. The Kremlin has already blamed the United states for being behind Europe’s refusal to attend the parade—as if the United states had that much influence. Some of Putin’s closest allies choose to stay away from the regional power game heat. Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary, stayed at home, and so was the country’s president, János Áder. Aleksander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, a member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, didn’t turn up either. And Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, had canceled, apparently after first accepting the invitation. In what is seen as punishment for Kremlin meddling in Ukraine, Western countries led by Russia‘s World War II allies snubbed the May 9 festivities, leaving Putin to mark the day in the company of the global tyrants of China, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and other Moscow-friendly figures.
Victory Day traditionally unites Russians across political divides and huge crowds were expected to flood into central Moscow. But the Kremlin parade was overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis, with the West slapping sanctions on Moscow over Russia‘s seizure of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Nearly 10,000 soldiers, including an Indian Army contingent and China‘s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), took part in the parade at the iconic Red Square here which lasted for over 90 minutes. Whereas, the Ukraine marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II Friday, preceding by one day a military parade in Moscow on May 9, the traditional date of when the end of the “Great Patriotic War” is celebrated in post-Soviet states. President Petro Poroshenko appeared on television to give a speech, saying, “On May 8, for the first time, the people of Ukraine will join the European tradition to commemorate the victims of World War II,” Poroshenko said, speaking a day before the celebrations in Moscow commemorating allied victory over Nazi Germany.
Friday’s celebrations marked another symbolic step by Kyiv to distance Ukraine from its Soviet past by celebrating, for the first time in 70 years, the end of World War II on the same day as the U.S. and Western Europe. Ukraine says it lost between 8-10 million of its citizens, including 3.5 million in the Soviet forces. While Putin is celebrating the victory day with the great dictators of the World, giving a glimpse of a new cold doctrine in the post-Cold War era, where to its dilemma across its meddled affairs on its Western borders with Ukraine, Russian military imperialism losses another inch of its naïve diplomacy, which becomes clearer when one goes through the lines of the Ukrainian leader – “It is the utmost cynicism to depict our country as a supposedly fascist state. It is done with the aim of justifying to the Russian people its own criminal action – Russia‘s aggression against Ukraine,” Poroshenko said. In a further sign of distancing itself from its former Soviet master, Ukraine joined most of Europe in a separate ceremony on Friday, a day before Russia. At a second ceremony on Saturday, Poroshenko said: “We will never again mark this day with the Russian scenario which cold-bloodedly uses our victory day as an apology for its expansionist policies and for keeping its neighbors’ in its orbit and recreating empire.” More than 6,100 people have been killed in fighting between pro-Russian separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev says has been stoked by Russia. Moscow, which annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year, accuses the West of orchestrating the events that led to the Ukrainian uprising.
Though a ceasefire is still tenuously holding, the Ukrainian military said on Saturday that separatists, backed by Russia, were keeping up the attacks with artillery and mortar bombing on government forces in the east and Southeast of Ukraine. It said four Ukrainian servicemen had been wounded in attacks in the past 24 hours. Victory Day was celebrated across Russia, with authorities staging parades involving thousands of soldiers, naval vessels and even nuclear submarines. In recent years, victory in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War has been raised to cult status, with critics accusing Putin of seeking to co-opt the country’s history to boost his personal power with worsening human right and democratic rights records.
By the editorial board of The Olso Times
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