Earlier this week Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed he ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from the eastern region of Ukraine, but U.S. intel refuted it from the beginning. Now, in a provocative visit to the recently annexed Black Sea region in Crimea, Putin appealed to hyper-nationalist sentiment, hailing recent developments as a great victory for the “Motherland.”
For those who resisted claims that Putin’s dream was reminiscent of a return to the former Soviet Union, he opened his speech to an eager crowd in front of 10 warships with “Hello, comrades!” Today wasn’t just any day, it was Victory Day, a nationwide rally meant to incite nationalistic fervor that doubles as a state of the Russian Federation speech.
“I think 2014 will also be an important year in the annals of Sevastopol and our whole country, as the year when people living here firmly decided to be together with Russia, and thus confirmed their faith in the historic truth and the memory of our forefathers,” Mr. Putin said in remarks broadcast nationwide.
“There is a lot of work ahead, but we will overcome all the difficulties because we are together, and that means we have become even stronger,” he added, with the finally consisting of a flyover that included 69 aircraft, representing the 69 years since the victory over Nazi Germany.
Meanwhile, the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, aimlessly called the event “inappropriate.” Speaking in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, Mr. Rasmussen also said that NATO still had “no visible evidence” that Russia was making good on Putin’s claim that he was withdrawing 40,000 Russia troops from the eastern border of Ukraine.
“This is the holiday when the invincible power of patriotism triumphs,” Mr. Putin said. “When all of us particularly feel what it means to be faithful to the Motherland and how important it is to defend its interests.”
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately released a statement condemning the visit from President Putin. “This provocation once again confirms that Russia deliberately chooses to escalate tensions in Russian-Ukrainian relations,” said the statement. “We urge the Russian side to return to civilized methods of interstate relations.”
Putin has little reason not to take advantage of what is widely seen as a weak U.S. President and neutered European Union. Economic sanctions imposed on Russia from the U.S. and the European Union are doing no damage, whatsoever. According to the most recent government data, the world’s largest energy producer, Russia, shipped 2 percent more gas exports to Europe in the first three months of 2014 than it did during the same period last year.