June 24th, 2020 saw Red Square hosting a military parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Allies’ victory over fascism. The parade should normally have taken place on 9 May, but was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On display were over 13,000 military personnel, 234 pieces of ground equipment, and 75 military planes and rotorcraft.
President Putin was accompanied by 10 foreign dignitaries: the heads of State from six CIS nations and Serbia, in addition to leaders of the internationally non-recognised Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and from the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russian soldiers in the parade were joined by their military counterparts from the CIS nations, together with troops from Serbia with China, Mongolia and India. Perhaps more of a symbolic gesture bearing in mind the COVID-19 pandemic and the high number of infections worldwide plus recent Sino-Indian clashes in Ladakh.
The range of vehicles on display was indeed impressive, with 20 new machines making their public debut near the Kremlin walls.
Coincidentally, the same day saw President Trump hosting his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda at the White House. The US leader repeated his plan to move troops from Germany to Eastern Europe – Poland in particular – while criticising Berlin at the same time for not following a NATO defence-spending plan and for acquiring natural gas from Russia.
“They will be paying for the deployment of additional troops, and we will probably be relocating them from Germany to Poland,” Trump said during a press conference together with his Polish counterpart. He said that the US would be decreasing its armed forces’ presence in Germany “very substantially.” Some of these troops would be repatriated to the US, while others would be redeployed elsewhere.
Needless to say, such a prospect is not enthusiastically welcomed in Moscow. The Russian capital lies 1,150 km from Warsaw and around 800 km from the Baltic states. The capital of Moscow’s closest ally – Minsk, in the Republic of Belarus – is located about half way between Moscow and Warsaw, while Russia’s westernmost enclave — Kaliningrad region — is bordered by Poland and Lithuania.
Russia well remembers the morning of 22 June 1941 when 5.5 million Nazi troops crossed the Soviet border.
The surprise airstrike that day involving thousands of aircraft heralded the first phase of a war whose aim was drive the USSR into extinction. Lasting 1,418 days and nights, the war resulted in the terrible loss of some 27 million people – one seventh of the total population – including 19 million non-combatants. The Belarussian Republic of USSR, which had been occupied for over three years, lost one quarter of its inhabitants. This could never be forgotten.
Not surprisingly, the lion’s share of military vehicles displayed on Red Square showcased the country’s air defence. Long range S-400 TRIUMF and S-300V4, both capable of intercepting all types of aerial targets up to distances of 400 km. The medium range belt was presented by the upgraded BUK-M3, and the latest S-350 VITYAZ mobile system, designed to engage targets at a range of 1.5 to 200 km. The close range is comprised of three versions of the PANTSIR missile weapon system, including the Arctic variant), TOR-2MU missile system and the 57-mm DERIVATSYA-PVO SP anti-aircraft gun system. The defensive branch also included the BAL anti-ship coastal mobile system employing a Kh-35 cruise missile with a range of 120 km at Mach 0.8.
Nothing had been heard ahead of the parade about the ISDM (Engineering System of Distance Minelaying) ZEMLEDELIYE (Husbandry) minelaying vehicles. The machine employs 50 122-mm launchers capable of firing a salvo to create a minefield at ranges of 5 to 15 km. The new generation mine employed in this system meets the Geneva Convention requirements. The vehicle is set to complete state trials before entering active service by the end of the year.
Eight types of APC and light wheeled armoured vehicles were also on display.
This Russian Army “iron feast” also displayed the new versions of the T-14/T-15 ARMATA family, as well as T-80/T-90 upgraded versions.
Additional strike power was displayed by the TOS-1A and TOS-2 heavy flamethrowers, 300-mm TORNADO MLRS (modernisation of the MLRS SMERCH) and ISKANDER missile complex with a reported range of 400 km.
The RS-24 YARS concluded the ground show; a battery of the three-stage solid propellant ICBM highlighted Russia’s superpower capability. The missile has a range of 2,500-10,500 km, and is capable of carrying ten MIRV warheads.
With what happened 79 years ago in mind, Russia sent a clear message of its strong military power aimed at defending its independence and promoting self-confidence. Russia is the legal successor of the USSR but it is not the Soviet Union. It is driven by national interests and not by communist dreams and ideology. It has overcome the very worst pages of its history during the war and has stood firm for fifty years thereafter for the sake of its people.
Addressing war veterans and parade participants, Vladimir Putin said, “We understand how important it is to strengthen friendship and trust between peoples, and are open to dialogue and cooperation on the most pressing issues on the international agenda”, including, “the creation of a common reliable security system.” In the 1930s, a lack of a sense of common security, coupled with “irresponsible games” of the ruling elites, resulted in the most devastating war, which killed over 70 million people globally. The Earth will not have a second chance to survive if this lesson is forgotten and if another – now nuclear – catastrophe breaks out. Unfortunately, it appears that deterrence is the only way to maintain peace on the planet. Perhaps, the new generation will be wiser.