Analysis of Putin's speech: What he did not say

Putin’s speech was remarkable – mostly because he didn’t say many of the things we expected.

This was stated in an interview with ARD by the famous German expert Claudia Major. According to her, Russia will not deviate from its goals.

Madam Major, what do you think were the highlights of Putin’s May 9 speech?

Claudia Major: I find what he said remarkably. He reiterated the classic narrative that Russia was threatened by NATO, that it had to defend itself, that what was happening in Ukraine was a battle against a fascist regime – the whole narrative used before. However, what Putin did not say is also interesting. He did not name, for example, any of the things that have worried us in recent weeks: he has not announced a general mobilization, and we have not heard of any new threats to the use of nuclear weapons. In short: it was a relatively conservative speech that repeated many well-known things.

Has Putin given up on universal mobilization – or is it just being postponed a bit?

Claudia Major: It’s hard to judge. In recent weeks, we have seen that even without a speech on May 9 or some other special occasion, the war could escalate. This means that something can happen without it being mentioned in the speech. It can also be announced by other Russian officials.

We must also be clear that the situation in Ukraine has not improved. Russian troops are in Donbas and control territory that opens a land corridor to Crimea. On the ground, they are trying to create facts by introducing the ruble and preparing referendums. In short, the fact that Putin is giving this conservative speech does nothing to improve the situation on the ground.

The Russian army is advancing very slowly in Donbas, which is why a grueling positional war is looming. What do you see between the lines of what Putin said? How will this conflict continue?

Claudia Major: We already know how difficult it is to predict anything in this war. Indeed, it is clear that Russia is not making enough progress. Quite the opposite even: Ukraine is regaining territory. At the same time, we must realize what a huge challenge it is for Ukraine to recapture the Russian-occupied territories. From a military point of view, this is an extremely difficult task.

Apart from that, Russia is trying to create fait accompli: introducing the ruble, turning off Ukrainian television, and forcing the use of the Russian language. All this sends the following message: “We have come to stay.” That is, the goal is long-term annexation and de facto conquest of these territories.

This year’s military parade in Moscow passed without official guests from abroad. Is this an expression of Russia’s international isolation?

Claudia Major: Isolation has emerged in recent weeks – I mean sanctions and strong condemnation of Russia’s actions. What was interesting to me in this parade was Putin’s bridge to the past: he tried to say that what the struggle against fascism and Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War was about was, in fact, the same thing that Russian soldiers are fighting for now. in Ukraine. So Putin tried to draw a historical line.

And how does all this resonate in Russian society?

Claudia Major: These parades and this speech have different addressees: one is for Russian society to be united, convince how heroically Russian soldiers are fighting, and thus to generate support and silence critical voices.

The second message is to the world community: it must show the world that Russia will not deviate from its goals. It is somewhat ironic how we were partially relieved that no general mobilization was announced and that the nuclear scarecrow was not waved. But in general, we must realize that with his speech, Putin has de facto confirmed the goals he is pursuing – and once again tried to justify the war of conquest in Ukraine. There are no signs that Moscow is inclined to de-escalate. Russia is sticking to its goal – to bring Ukraine under control and keep the territories it has conquered so far.

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