In a Victory Day speech dominated by condemnations of Western powers, Russian President Vladimir Putin took aim at actions he said propped up threats to his nation’s borders, and even supported threats of nuclear war.
He spoke at the Kremlin on the 77th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany and the 75th day of the war in Ukraine. The address was heavy on patriotism and history, as could be expected.
With the Russian tricolor and martial music blaring, the president addressed the audience in Red Square. Putin defended Russia’s “historical territories,” such as Crimea and, presumably, Ukraine. He railed against NATO expansionism that would threaten “our borders” and declared it is an unacceptable situation.
Putin denounced the development of military infrastructure along with the growth of weapons and advisors in areas surrounding Russia, calling out the United States by name. He said that after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the U.S. humiliated “the whole world” and “their satellite states.”
Putin specifically recognized the sacrifices of 27 million Russian soldiers and civilians who died in the struggle to defeat Adolf Hitler in World War II. He made numerous mentions of the Donbas region and the fight for the Russian “Motherland.”
The president held a silence in honor of soldiers lost in combat.
Interestingly, on a day that appeared to be largely clear in the morning, but developed light showers later, the traditional Victory Day air shows were canceled across the country.
Despite obvious references to the invasion of Ukraine and the Western condemnation that followed, Putin’s address is notable also for what he did not say. The invasion, for example, was merely labeled “a preemptive response to an aggression.”
There was the persistent drumbeat of Russian nationalism throughout the 11-minute address. Western predictions of a formal war declaration on May 9 were clearly false, and Putin seems to have a lot of support to continue his mission in Ukraine.