Russian President Vladimir Putin used the national Russian holiday commemorating Nazi Germany’s defeat at the end of World War II to demonize the West, suggesting it is responsible for Russia’s war in Ukraine. In his annual “Victory Day” speech on May 9, Putin said the ongoing invasion and occupation of Ukraine was necessary because the West was “preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea,” according to CNBC.
His speech comes after weeks of speculation over whether the Kremlin would seize the occasion to announce an escalation in the war, says Mai’a Cross, Edward W. Brooke Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Northeastern. While still a “classic example of Russian propaganda,” filled with bombastic rhetoric about the role of the West in forcing the Kremlin’s hand in Eastern Europe, the speech felt somewhat subdued in tone, with Putin treading carefully around the subject of a victory in Ukraine, Cross says.
“Clearly the Russian military is too beleaguered, too weakened at this point for Putin to feel as though he could use this day as an opportunity to escalate things,” Cross says. “But that doesn’t mean he won’t take this escalatory stance in the coming days.”