Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted that NATO and the United States were to blame for the war in Ukraine. That was the message of his speech during Victory Day, Russia’s annual celebration of the end of World War II against Nazi Germany.
Putin’s well-known nostalgia for the former Soviet Union was on full display as he defended his decision to invade Ukraine. He said that May 9, 1945, was a day of triumph for “our united Soviet people.” Saying that the decision to invade Ukraine was “the only correct one,” Putin claimed the Ukrainian and Belorussian cities of Kharkiv, Kyiv, Sevastopol, and Minsk as part of the “fatherland.”
Speaking to the Russian troops involved in the war, Putin said, “You are fighting for the motherland, for its future, so that no one forgets the lessons of World War II.” About 11,000 troops marched. They were bolstered by just 131 armored vehicles during the parade. Many of the newer T-90 tanks and Pantsir anti-aircraft vehicles were notably absent this year, leading many analysts to believe these assets have been deployed.
“There is no place in the world for executioners, punishers, and Nazis,” Putin added, invoking the ridiculous claim that Nazis run the Ukrainian government.
Speaking at Red Square, Putin listed several reasons for the Russian “special military operation.” He said that NATO was surrounding Russia and was putting bases inside Ukraine.
“Russia called on the West for an honest dialogue, to search for reasonable, compromise solutions, to take into account each other’s interests. All in vain. The NATO countries did not want to hear us, which means that in fact, they had completely different plans,” Putin said. “The danger grew every day. Russia gave a pre-emptive rebuff to aggression. It was forced, timely, and the only right decision. The decision of a sovereign, strong, independent country.”
That claim was debunked by British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who provides daily intelligence reports on the war.
“NATO accounts for 6% of his land border,” Wallace said, according to PA Media. “That’s not being surrounded if only 6% of your land border is NATO countries.”
As for NATO bases in Ukraine, “I’m sure the Ukrainian ambassador will tell you there weren’t any NATO bases in Ukraine,” Wallace added.
Mentioning Putin, Wallace said, “I think he is believing what he wants to believe… a slight shine of desperation.”
A planned flyover for Russian combat aircraft was curiously cancelled. It was expected to showcase 77 aircraft. They were to fly over Moscow’s Red Square and would have included eight MiG-29 fighters aligned in a “Z” formation.
Russia’s state-run TASS reported that planned airshows in Samara, Kaliningrad, and Murmansk were also cancelled, supposedly for bad weather. RIA Novosti quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov as confirming the weather decision. However, the Victory Day parade in Moscow showed mostly sunny skies.
The decision prompted a question: Why would the Russians cancel the planned airshow? Army Gen. Oleg Salyukov, commander of the Russian ground forces, said that nine military airfields are used for the annual planned flyover. While the weather can look good in Moscow, that is not necessarily the case outside the city.
“I think what you saw is already impressive,” Mr. Salyukov told Interfax when asked about the cancellation.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO, and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and for another military news organization, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for more than 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.