All autocratic systems share a common weakness – they just love martial parades with serried ranks of men and weaponry. Russia and Putin are no different. Coming hard on the heels of their May Day celebrations is the Victory Day celebrations on May 9. This day commemorates the final surrender of Nazi forces in WWII. The USSR, as it was then, suffered the most of any country and rightly holds the day dear. Confusingly, the Western Allies celebrate it as V-E (Victory in Europe) Day on the 8th of May when the definitive surrender document was signed. V-E Day has become an anaemic celebration consisting mainly of wreath laying. Russians, on the other hand, have used their Victory Day Parade through Red Square to demonstrate their military might like a steroid-enhanced bodybuilder pulling poses. He could have a glass jaw, but he looks pretty impressive.
In the weeks preceding, Russia had repositioned its forces after its attempts to defeat Ukraine by main force had failed dismally. It seemed that Putin was opting for a quick small solution in the East which would allow him still to declare victory on May 9. Embarrassingly they failed again. This year’s parade was eagerly anticipated, not for the military hardware, but to see what illogical distortions would Putin spew out and what dire tub-thumping threats would he make. He generally disappointed but nevertheless creatively hailed a ‘great victory’ and devoted the rest of his speech to whingeing about American hegemony and Ukrainian Nazis who seek to destroy Russia. ‘Russia’ he said, ‘preventively rebuffed the aggressor. It (the special operation/invasion/war – author) was necessary, timely and … right.’ The parade itself was anaemic with up to a third fewer vehicles than normal. The obvious conclusion is that they are desperately needed elsewhere. The Russian losses have been staggering – 1130 tanks, 2741 armoured personnel carriers, 509 artillery pieces, towed and self-propelled, 179 multiple rocket launch systems, 156 helicopters and 199 planes*. To put the numbers into perspective, this represents 5-10 times the equipment owned by the SANDF, working and not-working.
It is not an exaggeration to state that the Russian war chest is beginning to look bare.
*The numbers have been supplied by the Ukrainians but have been largely backed up by independent sources from photographic evidence.