- By Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet.
Russia put its massive military on full display in a Moscow parade on Tuesday, an annual event commemorating the end of World War II in Europe. Nominally meant for a Russian audience, the Kremlin is hoping the parade chock full of high-end military tech will wow rivals in the West who are watching, too.
Over 10,000 troops marched through Moscow’s Red Square on Tuesday, which marks the 72nd anniversary of Allied victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. Also on display were over 100 pieces of Russian military hardware, including a RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile, and a new air defense system designed for the Arctic. Here’s some photos of the festivities:
Russia’s not the only country to show off new military tech at parades. In 2015, China used its own World War II victory parade to premiere its behemoth intermediate-range ballistic missile: the DF-26 (or, as it’s more lovingly known, the “Guam killer” missile, referring to the U.S. military outpost on Guam).
Russia has stepped up its military presence in the Arctic (including a massive state-of-the-art new military complex), prompting growing concern in the United States and among its NATO allies. Receding Arctic ice is giving way to new geopolitical competition. Russia, the United States, Norway, Canada, and even China are vying for influence and access to the region’s vast untapped resources and strategic maritime routes.
One thing that wasn’t on display: Russia’s air force. The defense ministry canceled plans for a massive military fly-by for the Victory Day parade, including planes that flew missions over Syria, due to inclement weather. The government usually hedges against bad weather by seeding clouds over Moscow with concrete particles to clear skies. This year, the Russian government spent $1.67 million on cloud seeding, but apparently it didn’t work.
The cloudy weather didn’t keep Russian President Vladimir Putin from making a big speech before the celebrations. He appeared to throw some not-so-subtle shade at NATO in the speech. “The lessons of the past war urge us to be vigilant and the Russian armed forces are capable of repelling any potential aggression,” he said. He added “today, life itself requires increasing our defense potential.”
Relations between Russia and the West hit their lowest point in the post-Cold War era after Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2014, reviving historic tensions with NATO and prompting the alliance to bulk up its military footprint in Eastern Europe. Russia responded with big boost in defense spending and series of massive military exercises near NATO’s borders in the Baltic region.
One bellwether of Russia’s souring relations with the West is noting who showed up at the parade. In 2005, Russia hosted 38 heads of state for its Victory Day parade. In 2017, the head of state from only one country showed up for the festivities: Moldova.
Photo credit: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images