Empty Victory Day for Putin
Vladimir Putin addressed his army on “Victory Day” amidst the ongoing Russia Ukraine tussle which has been going on for more than 75 days. This day marks Russia’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War 2. The speech was longer than usual and was awaited worldwide as there were expectations of Putin’s intentions especially his stance regarding the West and NATO. Although no significant announcement were made during the speech, did it give any indication about Putin’s plan of action? Lets dig deep.
Victory day, loser speech
On May 9 every year, crowds gather on Red Square for a military parade to commemorate the Great Patriotic War in which Russia (then USSR) defeated Nazi Germany. This day has often been used in the past to narrate stories of the wicked west and stir nationalist feelings among fellow Russians.
Mr Putin, while plotting his Ukraine invasion would have thought to use this day to brag about his might and celebrate the defeat of the neighbouring country. Instead, he chose to find ways to convert his losses to victory. This time rather than focusing on the victory in 1945, like before, he firmly spoke about the present.
It is true that Russia was not badly hit despite sanctions imposed by several countries. However an estimated loss of at least 15,000 Russian soldiers’ has been far worse than planned by Mr. Putin. Moreover, Russia has failed to take territory in Ukraine’s north and around the capital, Kyiv. It is also struggling in the east and south, where it had a presence through pro-Russian rebels for years. Mariupol is the only sizeable urban area that the Russian forces have seized, although they had to destroy the city to capture it. FYI, in Ukraine, Russian forces continued their assault in the east of the country, and are fighting to capture the last few places of resistance in the crucial southern city of Mariupol.
A possibility that Russia may win nothing, or very little, in Ukraine is slowing looking to be more real than ever ever imagined!
Demonization cum Pacification cum mobilisation
West had “demonized” Putin by speculating that he would formally declare a war against Ukraine or probably use the occasion to announce his next targets. Putin however did not mention Ukraine directly. He denied his move as a war against the neighbouring country. He also did not use any fierce rhetoric to stir up any confrontational sentiments. Instead he chose to blend history with the present, to justify his move.
One major message from the speech was that Russia is fighting in Ukraine because they accuse them of being neo-Nazis, and they need to continue their ancestral fight against Nazis. Putin said the war is “sacred” and that his hand was ”forced” by NATO and America which led to him launching a “special operation” in Ukraine. The speech was a clear signal to the West that Russia will not accept any intensified pressure to sabotage its strategic space.
In his entire speech, Putin kept justifying the war as a move to protect the security of the country, claiming that NATO was creating threats at Russia’s borders.
Russia has faced a lot of criticism for this impending military operation. And looks like he used the historic day for mass mobilization of Russians towards his point of view. But, he did not harshly criticize NATO or the US so does that mean left room for future negotiations?
Is there an end in sight?
Much to everyone’s disappointment, Putin’s speech provided no clarity on the progress in the war as well as any indication of how long it might continue. No announcements of further aggression or any peace talks has however, left everyone in lurch.
Victory day was thus a complete non-event from the perspective of the financial markets.
It is unlikely that Ukrainian troops will back down as can be seen by the heroic fight they have put up, surpassing all expectations. With assistance from the West in the form of credit and ammunition, the country claims to have won back some of its territories and has put up a strong fight all this while.
West has tried hard to completely weaken Russia by prolonging this conflict. There is a growing pressure on Biden’s administration over a weakening domestic economy and humungous financial aid let out to Ukraine. If this conflict tussle persists, it could harm its domestic midterm election prospects.
This conflict may not end soon but there could be a possibility of fighting while negotiating going ahead but the negotiations could probably be between Russia and US rather than restricted to Russia and Ukraine.