May 9, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Russia accuses Moldova of ‘Nazi-like genocide’ — indicating it may be Putin’s next target for takeover

Institute for the Study of War

Russian President Vladimir Putin used his May 9 Victory Day speech to relitigate his belief that the West is attempting to erase the Soviet Union’s contributions to defeating Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War (Second World War), a grievance that is at the core of Russia’s adversarial perceptions of the West. Putin claimed during the Victory Day parade, which is held to commemorate the Soviet Union’s victory and sacrifices during the Second World War, that “they,” referring to the West, are attempting to “distort” the truth about the Second World War and “demolish” the memory of Soviet heroism and sacrifice. Putin claimed that perceived Western efforts to rewrite the history of the Second World War and the West’s supposed support of “Nazism” in Ukraine, another long-standing Kremlin narrative, are part of a wider Western effort to incite interethnic and interreligious conflict throughout the world. Putin claimed that while the West would like to forget the lessons of the Second World War, Russia remembers that the Soviet Union decided the “fate of humanity” during battles “from Murmansk to the Caucasus and Crimea.” Putin similarly used his 2023 and 2022 Victory Day speeches to reiterate existing narratives about the West’s war against Russia and absurdly to equate the threat of Nazi Germany with that of Ukraine. Putin’s willingness to repeatedly re-emphasize imagined Western efforts to discount the Soviet Union’s contribution in defeating Nazi Germany suggests that Putin wholeheartedly believes that this is a genuine threat to the Soviet Union’s legacy, and by extension the modern Russian state. This belief is in line with Putin’s repeated efforts to rewrite and rehabilitate the Soviet Union’s aggression towards Poland, its brief alliance with Nazi Germany, and crimes committed against its own people before, during, and after the Second World War.

Putin simultaneously used his Victory Day speech to present a picture of Russia as a bastion in the fight against Nazism. Putin claimed that Russia has never belittled the contributions of the other Allied powers in the Second World War and highlighted the courage of Allied servicemen, resistance fighters, and the people of China who fought against Japan’s aggression. Putin claimed that Russia will do everything possible to prevent a global conflict, but at the same time will not allow anyone to threaten the country. Putin framed Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine as a “difficult transitional period” that Russia must get through and as part of Russia’s greater historical fight against Nazism. The Kremlin routinely invokes the mythos of the Second World War to generate domestic support for its invasion of Ukraine and frame its conquest of Ukraine as part of a wider existential conflict with the West. Putin’s rhetorical efforts to frame Russia as both a victim of Nazi aggression and the leader of its imagined anti-Nazi coalition tread a thin line that Putin likely hopes will appeal to both his ultranationalist constituency and the wider Russian population.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin used his May 9 Victory Day speech to relitigate his belief that the West is attempting to erase the Soviet Union’s contributions to defeating Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War (Second World War), a grievance that is at the core of Russia’s adversarial perceptions of the West.
  • Putin seized on a recent meeting with the commanders of several frontline Russian formations to portray himself as an informed and effective Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces, aware of the intricacies of the frontline situation and involved in finding solutions to issues that plague Russian forces.
  • Putin surrounded himself with a number of foreign officials at the Victory Day parade, likely in order to posture himself as an effective statesman capable of galvanizing an alternative coalition to the power structures of the collective West.
  • Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed that the Moldovan government is engaged in a Nazi-like “genocide” in Moldova — a notable inflection in Kremlin officials’ rhetoric about Moldova that is likely meant set conditions for a Russian effort to secure control over Moldova and not just some of its regions.
  • The leaders of the pro-Kremlin Moldovan Victory opposition electoral bloc attended the Victory Day parade in Moscow, further indicating that the Kremlin intends to use these actors to destabilize all of Moldova and attack Moldova’s democracy and EU accession process.
  • Russian forces have markedly increased the rate of ground attacks in eastern Ukraine over the past month, likely reflecting current battlefield conditions and the intent of the Russian military command to secure gains before the arrival of Western military aid to the frontlines.
  • Russian border guards are withdrawing from much of Armenia as Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan continues to face domestic backlash for decisions regarding Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • The Kremlin may seek to capitalize on opposition outrage in Armenia to punish Pashinyan for increasingly pulling away from Russia.
  • Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) conducted long-range drone strikes against Russian oil depots and refinery infrastructure in Krasnodar Krai and the Republic of Bashkortostan on May 9.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Avdiivka and Donetsk City.
  • Russian forces continue to struggle with discipline in their ranks, with some Russian soldiers reportedly killing other members of their units.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-9-2024 

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