The 9th of May is the date when Russia celebrates the end of World War II, a conflict which killed millions and millions of Russians (some estimates are as high as 27 million Russian deaths for roughly 56 million deaths worldwide during WWII). More specifically, this anniversary (which is called Victory Day) commemorates the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union, which took place on the 9th of May 1945 Moscow time.

Traditionally, the commemorations include a military parade, which in the Cold War served to display the military might of the Soviet armed forces. As we are now witnessing the resurgence of a Cold War between the USA/UK/NATO and Russia, I would suppose that western military analysts were keen to find out what pieces of Russia’s military arsenal would be paraded on Victory Day (e.g. ‘Russian WW2 parade: a tank-spotter’s guide’, Laurence Peter and Pavel Aksenov, BBC, 6 May).

I am no military pundit or armchair general, so my purpose here is not to provide any expert analysis of the expensive weaponry that was paraded three days ago (probably more interesting is the fact that some Chinese soldiers took part in the march, which to me looks like the result of the Obama administration’s military ‘pivot’ to Asia). However, here are my two cents (but not euro centimes – see the pie chart with the biggest spenders on military equipment further below) as regards the BBC’s ‘analysis’ of a passage from Mr Putin’s speech (‘Russia stages massive WW2 parade despite Western boycott’, Lyse Doucet, BBC, 9 May 2015):

‘Show of strength’, excerpt from ‘Russia stages massive WW2 parade despite Western boycott’, Lyse Doucet, BBC, 9 May 2015

Although I would be tempted to comment on how Lyse Doucet, a veteran journalist from Canada and the BBC’s Chief international correspondent, very deftly managed to insert four ‘paragraphs’ about Ukraine out of the seven which appear on this section of the BBC article which is supposed to be about Russia’s WW2 parade, I would rather focus on the following sentence of Ms Doucet: ‘The remarks echo previous complaints by Mr Putin about what he says are efforts by the US and its NATO allies to encircle Russia militarily.’

This is indeed an accusation that I have come across elsewhere, i.e. in non-mainstream publications and ones with a definite leftist slant (for instance, ‘Encircling Russia, targeting China – NATO’s true role in US grand strategy’, Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch, 18 November 2010); as such, I wondered whether this particular organisation (NATO stands for ‘North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’) would have anything to say about Mr Putin’s claim that NATO’s aim is to encircle Russia. My intuition proved correct because NATO devotes a section of its website to its relations with Russia under a title which is unequivocal: ‘NATO-Russia: setting the record straight’.

‘NATO-Russia[colon] setting the record straight’

NATO-Russia: setting the record straight’, accessed 11 May 2015

In good old ‘Cold War style’, this section uses what I see as far-fetched or even spurious arguments (‘geography and physics make it impossible for the NATO system to shoot down Russian intercontinental missiles from NATO sites in Romania or Poland’, a claim which appears in the fact sheet ‘Russia’s top five myths about NATO’) as well as rhetorical devices (personification, demonising, etc – e.g. the picture of Mr Putin placed above an article entitled ‘Escape from Crimea: the ecologist’).

Somehow I cannot help but associate the BBC article and NATO’s assertions with this ironic caption that accompanies a map showing the locations of NATO’s bases in Europe: ‘Russia wants war: look how close they put their country to our military bases’ [sic]. I am no NATO expert, so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this map. However, to me the general picture looks pretty similar to NATO’s own map, ‘NATO on duty’ (which ‘illustrates some of the ways NATO is working around the clock and around the world, to keep our citizens free and safe now, and for the future’[sic]), when the following display options are selected in addition to those that come by default: ‘Troop-contributing partners’, ‘NATO command & control’, ‘Mediterranean Dialogue partners’ and ‘Partners across the globe’:

NATO on duty

Interestingly, the country that occupies the first position as regards military spending worldwide is not Russia. As based on a graphic from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (‘The share of world military expenditure of the 15 states with the highest expenditure in 2014’, which is part of its page on trends in military spending worldwide), this same country accounts for a third of total world military spending and more than seven times what Russia spends. Surely, this must say something about the true nature of the ‘game’ that is being played, no?

SIPRI MILITARY EXPENDITURE infographicsStockholm International Peace Research Institute: trends in military spending

Sadly, I cannot help but feel that Arthur Eric Blair (better known under his pen name George Orwell) was terribly prescient – I am referring to the famous slogans in his dystopian novel Nineteen eighty-four: ‘War is peace.’, ‘Freedom is slavery.’, ‘Ignorance is strength.’

Other links

Other entries on militarism and pacifism on this blog

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