On a Victory Day with no new victories, Putin’s speech makes the world guess

UK defense chief Ben Wallace had suggested that Putin could use this historic day to step up his so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine and declare war. Even if this was Putin’s plan, it was unlikely to follow after Wallace’s comments, not wanting to appear to his Western enemies as such an easy nut to crack.

Instead, the Russian president used his speech to blend history with the present, relying on Russian nationalism in its most patriotic holiday to justify his war.

In his respect for the Soviet war heroes who helped defeat Nazi Germany in World War II – the reason Russia celebrates Victory Day – Putin referred to the new Nazi threats in Ukraine, repeating his groundless justification. for the invasion as an operation to “denazify” the nation.

Referring to the threat of NATO troops in Europe, Putin said: “Everything indicated that a clash with neo-Nazis, Banderites [Ukrainian nationalists]that the United States and its younger partners have counted on, would be inevitable. “

“The danger was increasing every day. Russia rejected this aggression preventively. This was the only correct decision, and it was a timely decision. The decision of an independent, sovereign and powerful nation,” he said.

Putin had few options but to use his speech to continue selling his war to his own people. After all, he has so little success in Ukraine to brag about. All he can do now is keep the Russians on his side as they suffer the economic hardships of crippling sanctions and international isolationism.

The question now is whether Putin will use this day – or even this week – to escalate the war in other ways.

Members of the Russian military service take part in a military parade on Victory Day in Moscow's Red Square on May 9, 2022.

There are growing concerns that Russian forces are turning back to stall weapons – air strikes and long-range missiles, for example – which can be fired from afar, as is often the case when they are late. It is worrying, as these attacks are indiscriminate and tend to cause huge civilian tolls. An attack on a school in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, which is feared to have killed at least 60 people who took refuge over the weekend is just one example.

After Russia’s inability to conquer territory in the north of Ukraine and around the capital Kiev, it is also fighting in the east and south, where it has been present for years through pro-Russian rebels. The possibility that Russia will win nothing, or very little, in Ukraine is real.

Whether or not something changes on this Victory Day, a new chapter of the war will inevitably have to be written soon.

CNN’s Anna Chernova contributed to this report.