Putin: A prisoner of his own myths?

It is Vladimir Putin who made May 9 Russia’s main state celebration, and now he is trapped by the myth he has himself created, writes Andrzej Łomanowski for Rzeczpospolita daily

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Andrzej Łomanowski
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Victory Day military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 9, 2022. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Stalin stopped celebrating May 9 as the end of the war three years after the end of the war. It was Brezhnev who reinstated a great military parade at the Red Square on the 20th anniversary of the war and made it a holiday that year, but it was only Putin’s government that made it a part of state ideology with regular parades celebrating Tsarist and Soviet imperialism. 

Every year, these demonstrations were intended to remind the world of Russia’s moral superiority and what the rest of the world owed to Russia for defeating Nazi Germany. This moral superiority would be interpreted as giving Russia special rights, and it is that mentality which took today’s Russia into Ukraine.

Putin, the man who developed this ideology for two decades, is now faced with personal disaster. This is because all the political and military decisions are pointing to defeat. 

Some Kremlin officials and members of the military believe the war could be won via mobilization and conscription or by attacking Ukraine with nuclear weapons. But use of nuclear weapons would mean global conflict, and mass mobilization is regarded as a risky move that could make Russians doubt their reasonably solid support for this war up until now. 

And thus, there is not much room for maneuver on what is supposed to be a victory day.

The best option seems to be to try and freeze the conflict with Kyiv and declare victory by taking more land from Ukraine. 

This might have worked in 2014, but today Putin finds that no one in the West wishes to try and persuade Kyiv to negotiate, and his friends such as former German Chancellor Schroeder are losing influence fast.

Nuclear, emotional and energy blackmail is beginning to fall on deaf ears, with Kyiv’s determination no longer being undermined by Western weakness. 

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