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Editorial: Putin's narrative about Ukraine unravels

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MAY 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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Russia celebrated the 70th anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany on May 9 with a large-scale parade in Moscow, but whether now is truly the time for celebration is ambiguous.

Tensions between the international community and Russia have been rising, with the country now facing harsh scrutiny for alleged involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. Celebrating the day Germany surrendered to the Soviet Union and taking time to remember the sacrifices made by veterans in that war are noble motivations. However, it is impossible not to look at this event outside the modern context of the conflict occurring simultaneously.      

The potentially dubious intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot be ignored even on the day celebrating a historic victory over Nazi Germany. Putin has faced criticism for manipulating the situation in Ukraine in an effort to reclaim what is felt to be a loss of the former glory of the Soviet Union, and the celebration of Victory Day particularly highlights that. If Putin’s intention is to step in a time machine, he may be well on his way to getting his wish. The destination however may not be the Russia’s time of glory but the days of Cold War hostility.

The Victory Day parade was not only an effort to celebrate the glory of Russia’s past but also an opportunity to demonstrate the current military might of the country with “some 16,000 soldiers, 200 armored vehicles, and 150 planes and helicopters” also on display during the parade. Many Western leaders did not attend the parade, although they denied that their lack of attendance was an organized boycott. Still, it is clear to see that Putin’s alleged involvement in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea is not making him any new friends. Furthermore, the reluctance to be involved in the region appears to be dividing even Russia’s own ranks.  

Although Russian involvement in the Ukraine has been systematically denied, Russian troops have reportedly been quitting in order to avoid being sent to participate in the Ukrainian conflict, according to a Reuters investigation. Accounts from former Russian soldiers depict under-the-table deployments to the Ukraine with ambiguous orders and lucrative incentives. Despite that, there has been an increase in soldiers resigning from the military in order to stay out of a war they technically shouldn’t be in anyway.

Putin has tried to control the narrative of Russian involvement in Ukraine, but it would appear as though not even he can keep his story straight for much longer. Members of NATO have made an effort to remove suspected Russian spies from the Western military alliance headquarters in Brussels. It has become clear how the Western world feels about Russia’s actions, and regardless of Putin’s intentions, the result is an increasingly polarized relationship between Russia and the West. Russia has found itself in a precarious situation with the Western world, watching Putin’s carefully crafted narrative appear to unravel before our very eyes.


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