Putin's WWII "Victory Parade": Western Attendance Would Not Mean What You Think It Would...

There's dramatically more to Putin's recent decision to postpone the May 9th parade on Red Square than meets the eye, writes Victor Rud for EUToday.

Commemoration of the "Great Patriotic War" is a Pavlovian bell for Putin's domestic audience. In light of COVID-19, the conundrum of maintaining the image of situational control and the immutable sanctity of the Victory Parade was deftly solved--Putin suddenly received requests from multiple veteran organizations to postpone the parade. Perfect. The Kremlin is a master of acting upon seemingly independent requests to mask its own initiatives. Invitations transmute invasions into genteel RSVP's.

For Putin's Western audience, however, WWII is not about the past. It's about the future. It figures prominently in Putin's algorithms routing Western--particularly American--behaviors. Postponement of the parade until COVID-19 subsides was critical for Putin in order to better ensure the attendance of Western luminaries. Their presence will reconfirm for Putin his GPS coordinates for a bigger "Victory Parade" to come. Said Putin, “I think that, concerning former members of the anti‑Hitler alliance, the right thing to do would be to attend, from both a domestic political stance and a moral one."

If this sounds like another brain invasion to affect a body snatch, it is. But to what end?

Attendance by Western luminaries at the "Victory Parade" will confirm their unwitting physical, visceral buy-in into a larger, well-choreographed maskirovka: Russia is seeking to crowbar the COVID-19 pandemic into the West administering the coup de grace upon the post-war order that Putin himself has already largely savaged. In other words, to bury itself, self-internment being more efficient than Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 threat that "We will bury you!"

The marketing rollout came from Igor Ivanov, president of the Russian International Affairs Council, and former foreign minister. Four days after Putin announced the postponement of the parade, Ivanov's April 20th, "Rethinking International Security for a Post-Pandemic World" invokes the "common threat," and then victory, of WWII as the example to follow as "humanity is confronting a common threat [of COVID-19] that it must defeat collectively." To that end, "as a matter of urgency, it is time to revisit the principles of international security" where cooperation is paramount. The "entire system of international relations [should be] back [my emphasis] under shared control. A global initiative of this kind would both bring our common victory over the virus that much closer and give all of humanity reason to look more confidently into the future." Seductive, clever.

How did the "common cause" with Moscow during WWII work out? The realities that Western luminaries will have to defenestrate on Red Square, their appalling ignorance of historical precedent, their sacrifice of self-interest and common sense, their hard-wired credulity, will reflect the same psychologies that will sanction Ivanov's hologram.

On May 8th, 1945, the day of German surrender, President Truman wrote to Stalin: "We fully appreciate the magnificent contribution made by the mighty Soviet Union to the cause of civilization and liberty. You have demonstrated the ability of a freedom-loving and supremely courageous people to crush the evil forces of barbarism."

On that same day, General George Patton saw it differently, addressing the press camp of the U.S. Third Army in Regensburg, Germany:

“Washington . . .[has] allowed us to kick hell out of one bastard and at the same time forced us to help establish a second one as evil or more evil than the first. We have won a series of battles, not a war for peace. We’re headed down another long road. This time we’ll need Almighty God’s constant help if we’re to live in the same world with Stalin and his murdering cutthroats. Unfortunately, some of our leaders were just damn fools who had no idea of Russian history. How Stalin must have sneered when he got though with them at all those phony conferences."

Washington's febrile infatuation with "common cause" with Moscow, coupled with a strategic vacuum and moral capitulation during WWII, led to near calamitous results for the world afterwards. Two generations scarcely dared breath lest an errant breeze waft over The Button. America's attendance at Red Square would camouflage those pathologies, yet that very attendance would confirm their continuing virulence.

Western attendance would not just require turning a blind eye to Moscow's co-venture with Hitler, the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (and its secret protocol), that triggered WWII. For decades it was denied by the Kremlin, then admitted, then justified and now praised by Putin.

Hitler Stalin

Attendance also would not just mean joining in that applause, and in Putin's slander that it was Poland that was responsible for WWII. Western presence would mean celebration of Europe's planned demise. Stalin hoped that Hitler would succeed in engulfing Europe, Stalin then turning on and overcoming Germany, with an "All-European Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" to follow.

That would have submerged the very Western nations represented on Red Square's reviewing stand. A month before the end of WWII, speaking to Yugoslav communists in Moscow, Stalin looked to the future: “The war shall soon be over. We shall recover in fifteen or twenty years, and then we’ll have another go at it.”

With Moscow as the venue and May 9th, not May 8th, as the original date, Putin will have secured Western applause not of a "common cause," of an Allied victory, or even of a Soviet victory, but specifically of a "Russian" victory. We can thank Western "experts" who generations ago bizarrely reverse engineered the multi-national empire-- “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”--into a unitary state, “Russia.” Not even Stalin made that leap.

Putin learned the alchemy: "After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, which in the Soviet era was called the Soviet Union that’s what it was called abroad – Soviet Russia – if we talk about our national borders, lost 23.8 percent of the territory . . . ."

And again: "In 1991, Russia voluntarily abandoned part of its territories." Western representatives will thus obligingly respool the USSR as "Russia," implicitly legitimizing Moscow clawing back its empire.

It follows that by their attendance Western luminaries will also endorse a catechism of 27 million "Russians" killed. (Moscow has periodically ratcheted it upwards.) Yet more non-Russians--Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Lithuanians Latvians and Estonians and others--were killed than Russians. Their countries, as well as others in Eastern Europe, were entirely overrun and occupied, twice. They knew no liberation until December 1991 when the USSR dissolved. Better that Western dignitaries acknowledge and visit their capitals.


The related question is, "killed by whom?" What of the millions of "war" victims murdered by the NKVD, the civilian "penal battalions" decimated as human cannon fodder, those lost in the Gulag during the war?

What happened to the Soviet soldiers that were contaminated by contact with American GI's at the Elbe?

Critically, Western attendance would thus mean acceptance of Putin's trompe l'oeil, a "historically besieged" Russia. WWII is central to the image-making, and taps into a long curated Western guilt psychosis about a purportedly victimized Russia. (President Trump recently simply doubled the death toll to "50 million Russians.") This, in turn, converts Putin's international predation to but a defensive reaction. Russia’s security imperatives excuses all sins. Reflex control.

Absent from Red Square will be the Russian General Staff study of its military campaigns between 1700 and 1870. Russia fought 38 wars. Two were defensive. How else did it become the largest country in the world, occupying fully one-third of Asia? Appropriately enough, Rafael Lemkin, author of the UN Genocide Convention, saw Russia as the apex predator state. A "defensive" Russia, Russia’s "historical aggrievements," condemns the victim as the perpetrator and sanctifies the perpetrator as victim.

Reality reversal.

Nothing new here. Six months after war's end when no one could any longer plead surprise about the U.S. having lost the peace, Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared at a celebration of US diplomatic recognition of the USSR: “To have friendly governments along her borders is essential both for the security of the Soviet Union and the peace of the world.” Putin's drumbeat of NATO as an existential threat is of the same order, never mind that he knows (a) that NATO is a neighborhood mutual defense agreement by Russia's actual and intended victims, (b) that not a soul in the West is capable of even speculating about invading Russia, and (c) that "encirclement" of Russia is a geographic impossibility.

Too many Western savants regularly, persistently, elbow each other in a rush to extend the apologia even further, complete with Russia's "humiliation" after the disintegration of the USSR, its "dispossession" (necessarily subsuming antecedent entitlement), "disorientation," "confusion", "lost pride," "sadness," "bitterness," "legitimate security concerns" in its "backyard." Voicing an empathy that never extended to Hitler, one of the advisors to Senator Bernie Sanders in the presidential campaign four years ago said, “Putin has been trying hard to find love, appreciation and recognition.”

Victimhood, the Soviet/Russia equivalence, and the numbers game were all in play in a talk by former US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power: "U.S. and Russian interests have frequently aligned. We fought together in both of the 20th century's world wars. . . The colossal sacrifices made by the Soviet Union in World War Two--in which they lost more than 20 million lives. . .Russia's immense contribution in that war is part of their proud history of standing up to imperialist powers. "

Above all, Putin dare not allow that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that was Nazi Germany's target in WWII. Generations after the fact, Yale professor Timothy Snyder had to school the German Bundestag and Putinverstehers on their own history--the purpose of their Fuhrer's war in Europe was to conquer and colonize Ukraine.

Little wonder that Edgar Snow concluded in the January 27, 1945 issue of The Saturday Evening Post: “The whole titanic struggle, which some are so apt to dismiss as ‘the Russian glory,’ has, in all truth and in many costly ways, been first of all a Ukrainian war . . . No single European country suffered deeper wounds to its cities, its industry and its humanity.”

American attendance at Red Square would also mean applauding its ignoble, bloody repatriation of Soviet refugees, dutifully implementing Yalta and adding to the body count. The mens rea was clear from the name, "Operation Keelhaul." With American GI's overseen by the Soviet NKVD, we can safely surmise the provenance of the name. Who wanted to listen to the dissonance of the truthtellers, anyway? And Putin can rest assured that U.S. representatives on Red Square would scarcely know that the Ukrainian underground had warned Washington about Stalin's plan to assassinate Patton. Washington instead sought to hunt down the informants and turn them over to the NKVD.

Through it all, President Roosevelt was self-quarantined in a state of rapture about Stalin, inexplicably enamored of his predatory cortex and obsequious in seeking his approbation. He refused to believe Stalin's 1939 Pact with Hitler, Stalin's concentration camps, his atrocities before and during the war. Roosevelt curried Stalin's favor, was thrilled with his bon mots, and sanctified a burlesque of reality as a casuistic "common cause." It's a convenient balm, a moral solvent, that Western politicians and commentators today increasingly dispense, as well, to bulldoze hellishly inconvenient truths.

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Before the pandemic, French President Emmanuel Macron had announced his attendance. President Trump had declined, instead designating his national security advisor, Robert O'Brien. I predict he will attend, with fanfare, making "common cause" with Putin about COVID-19 and other matters, and backing into precisely Ivanov's formulation. Critical for Putin will be securing U.S. economic assistance, starting with the lifting of sanctions for his war against Ukraine and ensuing international marauding. That's only for starters.

We must bleed out our naivete, concede reality, and deny Putin's dramaturgy and Ivanov's siren call. Anything less betrays a mutant train of logic. It's the same logic that for a century propelled Western Democracy to keep a system dedicated to its demise on artificial life support, adamantly refusing to believe what it assumed was unbelievable.

“Hitler admired Stalin’s ruthlessness, cruelty, and mercilessness. He identified with these traits.” So wrote Stalin’s favorite interpreter, Valentin Berezhkov. Who else identifies with those traits? And what to make of today's Putinjugend, mimicking the Hitler Youth?

Putin's crusade against Western Democracy is the "another go at it" that Stalin spoke of. So is "Rethinking International Security for a Post-Pandemic World." We are already suffering a rude epiphany wrought by COVID-19, shaking us out of our torpor and complacency. Do we want to invite another? It would not be moral. But it would be fatal.

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Victor Rud

Victor Rud

Victor Rud has practiced international law for 35 years, and before the fall of the Soviet Union represented, in the West, political prisoners persecuted by the KGB. He also served as Special Counsel to a member of the US Delegation to the Madrid Review Conference on Security & Cooperation in Europe ("Helsinki Accords").

His commentary has been carried, among others, by Forbes, Kyiv Post, Foreign Policy Association, Defense Report, Atlantic Council, Centre for Global Strategy, and EuromaidanPress.

Victor is Senior Advisor to Open Court, an NGO in Ukraine, and was the keynote speaker at the first L'viv Security Forum.

He is a founder and past Chairman of the Ukrainian American Bar Association, and currently chairs its Committee on Foreign Affairs. He received his undergraduate degree in international relations from Harvard College, and his law degree from Duke University.

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