Russia marked the 70th anniversary of the win over Nazi Germany in World War II, under a cloud of hostility, as many of the Western leaders boycotted this major occasion. As Russia flexed its military muscle in an elaborate display of its biggest nuclear missiles, veterans reflected on fond memories of United States’s cooperation. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin made what seemed to be subtle digs at the United States during his speech.
The 70th anniversary was marked by a huge parade in Moscow, which featured about 150 planes and helicopters, 200 armored vehicles and 16,000 soldiers. Some of the finest new military hardware such as the Armata T-14 tank, which has been highly publicized, were on display. This tank has been mooted by the state media in Russia as sending “shivers down Washington’s spine.” Russian leaders have boasted about their expensive modernization project, which have led to the best heavy military vehicles, that have “spooked” the Western world.
The biggest nuclear missiles in Russia were also on display, but to some veterans they were not something to brag about. A 78-year-old man named Boris Zaretsky, who grew up in a prisoner camp for children before joining the Black Sea Fleet, had his childhood taken away from him. He said he hoped there would be no more wars and no more wins to celebrate, as talking is better than fighting.
Other veterans fondly described the cooperation with America during the war years and on the battle field. The 87-year-old, Evgeny Bocharov, said he thoroughly enjoyed the bread and canned meat shared by American soldiers in a time when food was not readily available.
Unfortunately, 70 years on, and this cooperation evidenced during the war was barely visible at Saturday’s anniversary celebrations. The majority of invited leaders did not attend the event, which marked the anniversary of the win over Nazi Germany in World War II, highlighting the current hostilities between Russia and much of the Western world.
This anniversary is likely to be the last major milestone of the conflict that will see a large contingent of surviving veterans present. The boycott was seen as a protest of the alleged involvement of the Russian military in the battle in Ukraine. It clearly highlighted the rifts that have been created by the conflict in Ukraine. This was in stark contrast to the parade 10 years ago, where the Russian President sat right next to the then President of the United States, George W. Bush.
Although the memorial had thousands and thousands of soldiers marching, veterans wearing war medals and families paying tribute to loved ones lost in the war, the Western world’s boycott of the event stood out loud and clear. With the officials of the allied nations during the war years noticeably absent, all that was left were leaders from other countries that had little to do with the sacrifices made during the joint victory of the Soviet Union.
Putin made comments on Saturday that were construed as a subtle, verbal attack on America and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), of which the United States is a member. He voiced a warning against a unipolar world, which in Moscow terms, meant America’s influence on the world.
He also said the standards of international collaboration were being snubbed. Putin said all governments in the world should have equal security. This would then lead to tranquility and peace all over the world, Putin claims. The leader of Russia made these statements while the nation marked the 70th anniversary of the win over Nazi Germany in World War II, with hostilities with much of the Western world extremely noticeable at this major event.
By Rebecca Brown
Photo by Dave Gray – Creativecommons Flickr License