With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continuing, a Victory Day ceremony was staged in Moscow to mark the Soviet Union’s World War II triumph over Nazi Germany.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who spoke at the ceremony, justified the invasion, stating that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had been preparing for a military operation in Donbass in eastern Ukraine and Crimea in the south. He said a threat was being created on Russia’s borders, and that the Russian military’s pre-emptive strike was “the only correct” decision.
Putin also brought up Russia’s proposal to Western countries in December last year to sign a treaty on security guarantees, under which NATO would agree not to expand any further east, but he said that this was “all in vain,” shifting the blame to the West for causing the invasion.
He depicted the incursion into Ukraine as a “clash with neo-Nazis,” and said that Russian soldiers in the war zones “are fighting for our Motherland … so that there is no place in the world for torturers, death squads and Nazis.”
In 1941, the Soviet Union suffered a Nazi invasion, and suffered great casualties in the war against Germany. It is also true that NATO expanded east after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
— A distorted view of history
Putin, however, cannot justify the barbarianism taking place by bringing up such events from the past. His claims are based on a distorted view of history.
In the past, Victory Day, marking the end of the war in Europe, was a day when the Soviet Union, the United States, Britain, France and other Allied countries that fought against Nazis paid respects to the war dead together and vowed peace.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, has created an abnormal situation where Russia and the West have arrived at the anniversary as adversaries. It goes to show just how far apart Western and Russian perceptions of history have become.
Ahead of Putin’s speech, a G-7 leaders’ summit was held. A statement the leaders released criticized Russia’s military offensive as an “unprovoked war of aggression,” and said that Putin’s actions “bring shame on Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people.”
Reflecting on the lessons of World War II, international society including the Soviet Union created a postwar order centering on the United Nations. It was decided to respect the sovereignty of independent countries and solve confrontations between nations through dialogue.
Putin insisted in his Victory Day speech that Russia’s invasion was a “timely” and “correct” decision, but it is obvious that his strategy since then has not gone according to plan. In the speech he did not present any concrete results from the war. Even Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, a country which is on good terms with Russia, said he did not expect Russia’s offensive in Ukraine to last so long.
There are concerns that with Putin not backing down from his hardline stance, the Russian military’s offensive could intensify, claiming the lives of more civilians.
In Bucha, a city near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv that was temporarily occupied by Russian forces, the bodies of many noncombatants were found, raising suspicions of a massacre.
Civilian facilities including a theater and school where residents were sheltering were also attacked. And fears that the war front may expand into neighboring Moldova have also been cited.
Meanwhile, the West has provided weapons including anti-tank missiles and armored vehicles to Ukraine, along with military intelligence, and its involvement has deepened.
— Solidarity in the G-7 response
The G-7, which has imposed tough sanctions on Russia, has moved to ban or gradually scale back imports of Russian crude oil, and the Japanese government has aligned itself with such moves. It is only natural to unite to put an end to Russia’s acts of violence.
What must be prevented at all costs is a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.
U.S. President Joe Biden said of Putin, “This man cannot remain in power,” raising speculation that he has taken a change of the Russian regime into consideration. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, said, “We want to see Russia weakened.”
Putin has reacted strongly, criticizing the West’s provision of weapons to Ukraine, and said that if anyone sets out to create threats that are strategic in nature, Russia will take a “lightning-fast” response, and has even hinted that Russia could use nuclear weapons. Even if this is no more than a threat, such statements are unforgivable.
The preamble of the U.N. Charter, which outlines the purpose of the body, underscores its determination “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.”
Putin must not nullify this spirit. He should end the reckless offensive immediately. If things continue on their current course, Russia’s dignity will only be damaged.