String of False Words cannot Hide Russia’s Predicament

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insistence on defending his homeland as if it were a victimized country while he himself is pursuing an invasion of Ukraine is a false statement in the extreme. This argument is probably a way to hide the reality of the aggression. It only undermines Russia’s prestige.

A ceremony was held in Russia to commemorate the former Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, and Putin delivered a speech. The Victory Day ceremony has served to inspire the people every year.

Putin must have wanted to use the ceremony to broaden support for the invasion, but he made no mention of the war in Ukraine in his speech.

Fewer soldiers marched and fewer weapons appeared than in normal years in Moscow’s Red Square military parade. There was just a single old-type tank produced decades ago. In more than 20 cities, the parades themselves were canceled.

This can be said to be a sign that Putin has no “war results” to show off to his people and that even the reserve power to allocate military strength to parades is becoming scarce.

One year ago, the Russian military occupied 20% of Ukrainian territory and was aiming for further expansion. Then it faced counteroffensives, and now its occupied areas in Ukraine have decreased to 17%. Russian casualties in eastern Ukraine, the areas of fierce fighting, are reported to have exceeded 100,000 since December last year.

Under such circumstances, Putin said in his address, “A real war has again been waged against Russia,” telling a bunch of lies as if the United States and Europe were attacking Russia.

The battlefield is Ukraine, not Russia. It is intolerable for Russia to trample on the international order and twist the fact that Moscow has launched an invasion in Ukraine.

Every year, on the anniversary of Victory Day against Nazi Germany, Russian citizens have held marches in various parts of the country to commemorate the victims of World War II. This year, however, they have been canceled.

The Putin administration may have feared that protests against the invasion of Ukraine might erupt among the people who gathered for the memorial marches.

The war in Ukraine is looking more like a war of attrition, but Putin has been unable to issue a mobilization order, which would provoke a backlash of public opinion.

Many of the Russian soldiers fighting on the front lines are prisoners recruited by the Russian private military company Wagner. Putin will probably continue his tactic of exhausting the Ukrainian side in the medium- to long-term, while turning a blind eye to disruptions in the chain of command and order between the Russian military and Wagner.

On the other hand, Ukraine is poised to launch a large-scale counteroffensive in the near future. In order to press Putin to withdraw Russian soldiers from Ukraine and agree to a ceasefire, it will be necessary for Ukraine to deal a blow to the Russian military and achieve tangible results in the reclaiming of territory. The United States and Europe must provide support for that purpose.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 11, 2023)