Russia’s annual “Victory Day” celebration takes on a different meaning this year
On Monday, May 9, Russia will hold its annual celebration marking Germany’s defeat in World War II. Since 1945, Moscow has hosted a grand military parade in Red Square with dignitaries reviewing the troops from the top of the mausoleum which contains Vladimir Lenin’s tomb.
During the long twilight of the Cold War, there was an entire sub-branch of Kremlinology dedicated to analyzing those invited to the mausoleum, its upper floor accommodating about 20 people. This will be the first VE Day parade to see Russia embroiled in conventional warfare in Europe, so the symbolism of who is or is not on the mausoleum may take on greater significance.
To add to the intrigue, reports indicate that Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to undergo cancer surgery soon, temporarily transferring power to Nikolai Patrushev, a former intelligence and security officer who serves as secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Patrushev is said to be even more ruthless than Putin.
For the past nine years, Army General Sergey Shoygu has presided as parade inspector. For eight of those years, Army General Oleg Salyukov served as the parade commander. Will either resume their roles, given the crippling corruption and incompetence that plagues the Russian military and has occurred under their watch?
It should be noted that General Valery Gerasimov was the parade commander from 2009 to 2012. Putin ordered Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, to personally take command of the new offensive of the Russia north of the Donbass basin in eastern Ukraine, He arrived in the region on April 27. Reports suggest he was wounded in the leg on May 1 by a Ukrainian artillery strike.
But Russia’s war against Ukraine did not go as planned. The initial attempt to overthrow the government in kyiv in the days following the February 24 invasion failed. Expectations of a quick victory rested on a wobbly three-legged stool.
The first step was Putin’s own assertion that Ukraine is not a real nation and has always been part of Russia. The second leg was Russia’s relatively easy victory in 2014 in Crimea and the ethnically Russian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk at a time when Ukraine’s pro-Russian president neglected the armed forces, leaving the largely defenseless nation. The third leg of this now broken stool was constructed from Gerasimov’s theories of so-called modern “Hybrid Warfare”.
In speeches and articles, General Gerasimov has suggested that successful Russian operations achieve informational and psychological dominance over the enemy. To do this, chaos must be sown in the initial period of the war – even before the first kinetic shots are fired. This can only be done by ignoring the traditional boundaries between war and peace, and politics and war. Additionally, and important for Western nations finally sending Ukraine the military equipment, ammunition and spare parts needed to fight, is the fact that hybrid warfare considers the synergy of chaos ( non-linear and non-military tactics) as no longer content to support conventional force, but equivalent to it.
Thus, the widely reported Russian and Chinese cyberattack on Ukrainian networks launched before the official hostilities was a form of sowing chaos, as well as an aggressive exploitation of social media to spread false reports and undermine Ukraine’s standing with western democracies.
That these hybrid tactics weren’t enough to win on the cheap doesn’t mean they don’t have value. It simply means that Ukraine, having had a near-death experience in 2014, has reformed and improved its defenses. Regeneration is an advantage held by representative governments like Ukraine over security states like Russia. Even imperfect representative governments are more adaptable than the most perfect security states.
Thus, Putin needs cancer surgery, Gerasimov is injured, and Russia’s war against Ukraine falters. Looking at the situation — more as a former elected lawmaker than a retired intelligence officer — here are the things I’ll be watching.
First, is Putin really sick and will he go under the knife? For such a powerful and paranoid man with many enemies who probably ordered the assassination of dozens of opponents and dissidents, this decision must weigh heavily. Who can we trust? Although vulnerable, anyone from a number of people could kill him – including Nikolai Patrushev himself.
But the claimed illness brings an advantage to Putin. Putin took personal command of the war in late April, ceding national authority to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. Putin’s direct involvement in a failed war, despite Russia firing more long-range missiles deep into Ukraine, means ‘cancer’ could be a graceful exit or a way to salvage a reputation and a retreat. For Putin, the war might be over, but probably not the war itself.
Russians place great importance on special dates, and few dates are more special than May 9th. Not so long ago, it was suggested that Russia’s revamped offensive against Ukraine to the east and south might have borne enough fruit on May 9 to declare victory, real or real. symbolic. These thoughts sailed through the air like the turret of a Russian tank, landing with a thud in a muddy and bloody reality. Thus, this Victory Day parade will be devoid of triumph.
Look closely at the mausoleum in Red Square for signs of Russia’s future.
Chuck DeVore is Vice President of National Initiatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a former California legislator, Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs in the Reagan-era Pentagon, and Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve (retired). American. He is the author of two books, “The Texas Model: Prosperity in the Lone Star State and Lessons for America” and “China Attacks”, a novel.