For the past year Russian President Vladimir Putin has been stressing the need – and his intentions – to strengthen his country’s military might by investing in new and better technology. Next month, at the annual Victory Day parade held in Moscow, the Russian people will get their first glimpse of some of their armed forces’ latest acquisitions.
A major event on the public calendar and an opportunity for Moscow to show off its military might, the annual parade takes on added significance this year because of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Russia’s continued support of armed rebels in Ukraine’s eastern territories (where fighting has started to intensify again) also falls into that category. Putin’s administration has been more aggressive in projecting power globally in recent months, with numerous nations in northern Europe, East Asia, and even the U.S. detecting an increase in military air patrols in or near their airspace.
Putin’s increasingly muscular stance has unnerved many of his neighbors, but it has made him extremely popular with the Russian people: He enjoys a favorability rating of around 80 percent in most polls. This is why the display of weapons next month will be primarily aimed at the Russian people.
The state-owned Sputnik News service offered a preview on Tuesday, indicating the parade would feature the new T-14 main battle tank, among other equipment. The T-14, built on the universal “Armata” tracked vehicle platform, will be one of the most technologically advanced tanks in the world, according to defense analysts. Russian defense contractors are expected to deliver 2,300 T-14s between now and 2020. The first two dozen will be on display in next month’s parade, and they’ll eventually replace an estimated 70 percent of Russia’s current tank force.
Also on display will be the RS-24 Yars, an intercontinental ballistic missile system built as a counter to a U.S.-proposed missile shield for Europe. The RS-24, though not actually new, has not been seen frequently in public, according to Sputnik, and will make its first appearance in the parade. Unlike the ranks of long, colorful ICBMs that were paraded through Red Square during the Soviet era, the RS-24 is a drab green tube that sits atop a mobile launching unit. It can accommodate ten separately-targeted warheads.
Russians will also get a look at the Ural Typhoon U, Russia’s answer to the U.S. Army’s MRAP. The Typhoon is a heavily-armored personnel carrier that can resist mine blasts, armor piercing munitions, and improvised explosive devices.
The planned Victory Day parade has caused significant political upset between Moscow and the West. Russia lost more lives, military and civilian, during World War II than any other country; estimates run between 20 and 25 million people. The eventual victory over Nazi Germany is seen as a testament to the will and strength of the Russian people and remains a cultural touchstone.
Next month’s parade is also likely to be the last significant anniversary for which many veterans of the conflict will still be alive. Yet most Western leaders have refused Putin’s invitation to attend, citing the invasion of Crimea and Russia’s continued support of Ukrainian rebels as the reason.
One of the most high-profile guests expected to attend is the youthful North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who rarely leaves his home country. Kim, who regularly threatens to launch nuclear missiles at the U.S., is largely treated as a pariah by most other world leaders. Russian officials have recently spoken publicly about expanding the country’s relationship with the Kim regime.
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