Marking the seventy-seventh anniversary of Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany, the annual Victory Day military parade took place on Red Square in Moscow on Monday (9 May 2022) — and the whole world was watching. Thousands of armed service personnel; representing the land forces, the navy, and the air force of the million-strong Russian military, marched through the centre of Moscow accompanied by a smaller than usual show of force — armoured vehicles, tanks, missile launchers, and an ICBM, and all to the rousing marching music of the Russian army band. Given events in Ukraine, the western corporate media made sure to cover the parade in great detail, and give its take on what the Russian president said to the Russian people.
Jenny Hill, reporting for the British state broadcaster (the BBC) from Moscow, made sure to add that this was ‘a less-than subtle hint at Russia’s nuclear arsenal.’ Her assumption was that any of this was for the benefit or consumption of people outside Russia, but this is an annual event. This year’s parade was smaller than last year’s, and nuclear capable missiles have been a feature of the 9 May parade in Moscow for decades. Still, we must not let facts get in the way of good British wartime propaganda. Ultimately, however, the western media stood out in the cold for nothing. It never got the Russian declaration of war it predicted would come. As always, it believed its own fictions and was left with nothing more interesting to report than Moscow doing what it always does.
The militarism of the spectacle was presented to western news media consumers as a threat; as an example of Vladimir Putin playing the tin-pot republic military dictator showing off his all fur coats and no knickers army. It did this following the now routine propaganda model of highlighting and misrepresenting what the viewers were watching while studiously avoiding the inconvenient reality that this is precisely what every militaristic state — including the United States, Britain, and France — does at least once a year. While the US tries, for reasons of image, to avoid military parades, on 4 July 2019 President Trump’s ‘Salute to America’ parade in Washington DC was a show of military strength that left today’s Moscow parade well in its shadow.
Whether it’s the clownish uniforms and the obsolete weaponry of the Changing of the Guard at the outrageously lavish central London residence of the unelected British head of state or the ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ affair in Paris on Bastille Day, military parades are a thing aggressive states do. The Germans, in the main, tend to avoid them — and mainly because it was Germany’s fetish for militaria in the 1930s that led to everyone else paying very close attention to the state of their armies and military arsenals. Yes, this last comment was mean and probably uncalled-for, but — let’s face it — this entire NATO-manufactured Ukraine crisis has resulted in the rearming of Germany; the very thing the 1949 division of Germany and the 1990 NATO-Soviet agreement were intended to prevent.
Perhaps as important as the parade was what President Putin had to say to the people of Russia. It is a rare thing indeed that the western corporate media will air the Russian premier in his own words. Usually, what he has said is simply reported in quotation inside what is essentially a western news editorial opinion piece conforming to the western political narrative. Putin’s words are generally utilised to confirm the messaging of the United States — wherever in the West they are reported. On the rare occasion that he is shown saying something more than a sound bite, he is chaperoned; there will always be a talking head, an ‘expert’ on Russia, or a political analyst of some sort in the studio to explain what the western audience has heard. The Russian president is an excellent example of a voice in the West that is too significant to censor and yet too dangerous to be broadcast without some measure of control. This is precisely why Oliver Stone received so much abuse from the conformist western mainstream media for interviewing Mr Putin and simply allowing him to speak.
However, 9 May was an extremely rare exception to this rule. State-aligned news across Europe and North America broadcast the entirety of Mr Putin’s Victory Day address — unmediated. Why? — well, because he was expected to conform to the western anti-Russian narrative by using the occasion to formally declare war on Ukraine and so mobilise all of his military resources. President Putin, however, is not waging his military operation in accordance with western expectations. He did not declare war on Ukraine and the United States and its NATO client states were sorely disappointed. Rather, what happened was that Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian Federation, was given the platform to speak not only to Russia, but to the world.
Without doubt, this was Mr Putin’s greatest public relations victory so far in this conflict. Not only were western audiences presented with Russia’s case for war, they were given it from the mouth of Vladimir Putin himself. In explaining why Russian soldiers were fighting in Ukraine, he said:
Preparations were openly underway for another punitive operation in Donbass, and an invasion of our historic lands — including Crimea, Kiev has announced a possible acquisition of nuclear weapons, NATO began active military development of the territories adjacent to ours — this was an absolutely unacceptable threat systematically created for us an right on our borders.
Not a single word of this was factually incorrect and yet it is the one set of facts western media consumers are not being given. The Kyiv government, with the assistance of NATO money, training, and weapons, has been waging a war against ethnic Russians in Donbass since 2014, a war in which the targets of Ukrainian aggression have been called ‘separatists’ when all they had asked for was autonomy within Ukraine when the right-wing Maidan coup government attempted to remove the official language status of Russian in the predominantly Russian eastern oblasts. On 24 March 2021 the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, announced that he would be going through with the 11 March decision of his National Security and Defence Council to ‘de-occupy and reintegrate’ the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (the home of the Russian Federation’s Black Sea naval base).
In mid-April 2021, speaking on the German public radio network Deutschlandfunk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, stated: ‘Either we are part of an alliance like NATO and also make our contribution to strengthen this Europe, or we have only one option; to rearm ourselves.’ In April 2021 Ukraine was one of the most conventionally armed countries in eastern Europe, making this a clear reference — as it was understood at the time — to nuclear rearmament. And it is certainly no secret that NATO had been arming and training the Ukrainian military from 2008; something even US diplomats and politicians had warned was the ‘reddest of red lines for Russia.’
As facts inconvenient to the current western narrative on Ukraine; that Russia’s 24 February invasion was an unprovoked act of aggression and expansionism, all of this has been sanitised in the western media. Western media consumers are not allowed to think of Ukraine as plotting a military assault on Crimea and the Russian naval base — even though it was reported in the Ukrainian media at the time, they are not allowed to imagine a right-wing coup government rearming with nuclear weapons, or it sending openly Nazi militias to the east to terrorise the Ukrainian civilian population. In the West, Ukraine has to be presented as entirely innocent. But, by giving Vladimir Putin the stage on 9 May, they have let the cat out of the bag. Mr Putin stuck to the facts.
Of course, none of this will be highlighted by or discussed in the western media. The propaganda model of amplifying one narrative and silencing another will be put into full operation and western audiences will forget what the Russian president said. Still, the facts remain the facts. This crisis will end — hopefully without much more unnecessary death and suffering — and the facts will resurface. What the majority in the West will see, what a growing number already see, is that this war has not all been about Russian aggression. Ukraine, led on by the pretence of NATO support, like Georgia in 2008, put itself on a course to war with Russia — a war Russia made clear in 2008 it did not want. The Maidan coup government, however, believing it had the backing of the United States, put Ukraine on the road to a suicidal war with Russia that was only ever going to benefit Washington. On 24 February, Moscow finally decided to rain on their parade.
Jason Michael McCann, M.Phil. (TCD) Conflict Studies The author holds a postgraduate degree in Race, Ethnicity and Conflict from the University of Dublin, Trinity College, and an academic fellowship in the study of conflict from the University of West Flanders. He has published on the history of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and the murder of the Hungarian Jews in 1944.
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