Contrary to expectations, in his Victory Day speech, Putin neither declared war on Ukraine nor escalated with the West, but sent a reassuring message to the Russians.
Western leaders and defense officials have spent weeks speculating about what President Vladimir Putin might reveal about the new step in Ukraine’s military campaign as he delivered a keynote speech at the Victory on 5 September Red Square national holiday parade held.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace predicted on May 3 that Putin could “declare war” on Ukraine in this speech to escalate the special military operation. Some Western officials believe the Russian president will declare a key victory in the operation to lay a basis for troop withdrawals.
However, in his much-anticipated speech in Red Square, the Kremlin chief neither declared victory or “mission accomplished” nor promised that the operation in Ukraine could end soon. Contrary to all Western predictions, he did not issue a general mobilization order, did not warn of a nuclear attack and did not speak of a violent confrontation with the West.
Instead, he only mentioned the “neo-fascist threat” in Ukraine and reiterated that the military operation in the country was aimed at “defascization”. President Putin confirmed that the Russian military would continue its operation in Ukraine, but showed no effort to prepare people for a larger conflict.
The only political announcement he made in his speech was an executive order he had just signed to help the children of soldiers killed in action.
Anton Troianovski, veteran Russian political commentator New York Timessaid the reassuring message from Putin in this speech was that Russians can get on with their lives and that the Kremlin will not let the war in Ukraine get out of hand.
“He knows exactly what is possible and what is impossible,” Gleb Pavlovsky, a former close adviser to Putin, explains why the Russian president did not issue a general mobilization order as predicted by the West.
The Russian President’s speech on May 9 was also much more muted than the harsh statements against the West that he had made on other occasions since the start of the military operation in Ukraine.
Referring to the threat posed by NATO forces in Europe, Putin said: “Everything shows a clash with neo-Nazis, Ukrainian nationalists supported by the US and its opponents. The work they depend on is inevitable.”
“The danger increased day by day. Russia repelled this recalcitrant act with preventive measures. It was the only right decision and the timely step,” he said. “Decision of an independent, sovereign and powerful nation”.
This statement is neither new nor as harsh as previous statements when he warned of “red lines” in the West’s relations with Russia. Late last month, he warned countries that “pose a strategic threat to Russia” could face “lightning-speed” retaliatory attacks.
This year’s Victory Parade still focuses on the familiar, like the usual lineups of soldiers and weapons. The aerial show featuring the legendary “Z”-shaped battle formation for the military campaign in Ukraine was canceled at the last minute. The Kremlin stated that the air force formation was not carried out due to bad weather.
Some analysts say that while polls show strong Russian public support for the military campaign in Ukraine, the Kremlin appears concerned that support is not deep enough. A Levada poll last month found that 39% of Russians have little interest in “special military operations” in Ukraine.
Against this backdrop, a general mobilization order to mobilize more forces, or a switch to a war economy to fuel the campaign, could reportedly undermine the balance Mr Putin has maintained in Russia.
“Many people may be willing to support the war while watching TV at home, but they don’t want to fight with a gun,” Pawlowski said.
Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of political analysis firm R.Politik in France, who spent five years researching Putin, said the Russian president may decide the Victory Parade is not the right time to air the message to get the campaign to escalate, especially as many Russians still enjoy the traditional holiday of early May.
But some analysts warn that even if Putin doesn’t deliver a hard message, as the West speculated on May 9, the war in Ukraine will not subside anytime soon. Fighting will drag on as Ukraine continues to receive weapons aid from the West to deal with Russian forces along a more than 480km frontline in the Donbass region of the country’s east.
Ukraine’s military said Russia has deployed 19 battalion-level battle groups, each with about 1,000 troops, to the Russian border town of Belgorod to prepare for a fresh attack on Ukrainian forces in the city of Kharkov and to provoke breached defenses elsewhere.
The question now is what Putin will do next in the military operation in Ukraine. There are growing fears that Russian forces will step up airstrikes or long-range missile raids as momentum on the ground slacks.
“This is of great concern as attacks using such high-powered weapons tend to cause massive damage to civilians and infrastructure,” said Angela Dewan, an analyst at the company. CNNcalled.
After withdrawing from northern Ukraine and around the capital Kyiv, Russian forces have not yet achieved significant results in the operation in the east and south, despite having more firepower than the defense units.
“Regardless of whether or not anything changes in terms of Victory Day, a new chapter in the campaign definitely needs to be written soon,” said Dewan.
than tam (Corresponding New York Times, CNN)