Russian President Keeps Parade Obligations
By Dmitry Kamyshov. Vedomosti, May 27, 2020, https://www.vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2020/05/27/831307-prezident-rossii. Complete text:
Vladimir Putin kept the promise he made to Russians on May 9 in a televised address at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: The parade in honor of the 75th anniversary of Victory [in World War II], postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be held on June 24. And a month later, on July 26, Navy Day, a procession of the Immortal Regiment is planned; although, depending on the situation with the epidemic, it could be postponed, the prudent president warned.
Actually, I think Vladimir Putin has much more reason to be offended by friendly China in general and his “dear friend [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping]” in particular – much more so than, for example, [US President] Donald Trump, who is demanding compensation from Beijing for concealing the truth about the Wuhan coronavirus. The US president, like a real businessman, cares more about the trillion-dollar damage to the American economy. The pandemic has ruined Putin’s entire well-tuned ideological concept of 2020, which is impossible to put a figure on.
And everything was so well thought-out!
In January, we had the president’s Message to the Federal Assembly and the launch of the constitutional reforms [see Vol. 72, No. 3, pp. 3‑8]. In February, the State Duma unanimously adopted the president’s amendments with the key addition of the resetting of [Putin’s] term limits, that respected [State Duma Deputy] Valentina Tereshkova stumbled upon [see Vol. 72, No. 10‑11, pp. 8‑11]. March saw the equally unanimous endorsement of the constitutional reform by regional parliaments and a lively discussion of the amendments by ordinary Russians with the assistance of federal TV channels [see Vol. 72, No. 12, pp. 3‑7].
April was to be the triumphant national vote on the amended Constitution with a result nearly identical to candidate Putin’s 2018 presidential triumphant election returns.
Finally, May! A grand Victory Day celebration in the company of numerous foreign allies and even some so-called partners (you never know!).
This well-tuned plan was supposed to bring a jump in patriotic sentiment, a de facto revival of the Crimean consensus on a new basis, a convincing demonstration of Russia’s steadily increasing role in world politics and, ultimately, the belated but inevitable recognition by Western leaders of the inappropriateness of anti-Russian sanctions. At the same time, the government’s ratings were finally going to take off. The Kremlin is probably sick and tired of fending off independent pollsters and their harmful polls, as well as the independent media that gleefully tout those poll numbers.
What was there instead?
The solemn and measured adoption of the constitutional amendments was at first fast-tracked (in hopes of finishing the process before the virus rampage), and then it was dragged out to the point of indecency because it was impossible to wrap up all of the finishing touches amid the epidemic. Staff propagandists had to switch to explaining the authorities’ sage coronavirus mitigation policies. And the people quietly began to forget about the “Putin Constitution,” despite the worn-out TV clips.
The parade that was moved to June 24 will still be perceived as something secondary – and not just because the fly-over portion of the parade still took place on May 9. It’s just that the holiday’s special atmosphere is largely tied to the historical date, and just tank columns rolling through Moscow do not create a similar aura. What’s more, in the best-case scenario, only the heads of the CIS countries will attend the parade – and maybe not even all of them. It seems the decision was made to not even invite Western “partners,” to avoid any snubs. So the message about “finally getting up off our knees” will have to be streamed to an exclusively post-Soviet audience.
There are major doubts about whether turning June 24 into a “day of victory” over the pandemic is a good idea. Yes, the soldiers who march through Red Square could be followed by a column of doctors, scientists and waiters, who would throw their protective suits, coronavirus test tubes and “Closed for quarantine” signs down at the foot of the Mausoleum. But how would those celebrations look if a couple of months later a second wave of the epidemic breaks out (facilitated in part by the fervent desire to hold Immortal Regiment marches no matter what)?
So despite all the promises, Russia will not be able to celebrate this year’s anniversary of Victory the way it intended. And we probably just need to come to terms with that and start preparing for new celebrations, which, God willing, will take place under less extraordinary circumstances. Especially since, thanks to the Tereshkova amendment, Vladimir Putin may well live to see several more Victory Days in his current post.
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