Putin says ‘arrogant’ West risking global conflict in Victory day speech

In Victory Day speech, Russian president says his forces are in a ‘state of combat readiness’.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the “arrogant” West of risking a global conflict, warning the nuclear power’s “strategic forces” are combat-ready, as he marked the Soviet victory over Germany in World War II.

In a defiant speech on Thursday at Moscow’s Red Square before thousands of soldiers dressed in ceremonial attire, Putin said that Western elites had forgotten the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazism and were now stoking conflict around the world.

“We know what the exorbitance of such ambitions leads to. Russia will do everything to prevent a global clash,” he said. “But at the same time, we will not allow anyone to threaten us. Our strategic forces are always in a state of combat readiness.”

Victory Day has become Russia’s most important public holiday as Putin puts the country firmly on a combat footing. Evoking the second world war, the president has repeatedly framed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 as an existential battle against Nazism.

This year’s address to the nation came as his troops make advances in Ukraine and just after he took the oath for an unprecedented fifth term after winning presidential elections devoid of all opposition. At a lavish inauguration held two days earlier, he promised to deliver “victory” to Russians.

The 71-year-old leader has also upped his nuclear rhetoric. Earlier this week, he ordered the Russian military to hold nuclear weapons drills involving the navy and troops based near Ukraine.

Last year Russia revoked its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and pulled out of a key arms reduction agreement with the United States.

Military showcase

On Thursday, columns of tanks and missiles rolled across Red Square as squadrons of fighter jets roared above.

There was tight security in the capital, and parades were cancelled in several areas, including the western Kursk and Pskov regions, due to security concerns.

The parade in Moscow was scaled back compared with past years amid the mobilisation on the front lines.

Putin casts the ongoing war as part of a struggle with the West, which he says humiliated Russia after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 by encroaching on what he considers Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Ukraine and its Western allies have pledged to defeat Russia, which currently controls about 18 percent of Ukraine, including Crimea, and parts of four regions in eastern Ukraine.

Present at the event were the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Laos and Guinea-Bissau.

Russian officials say the Ukraine war is entering the most dangerous phase to date. Putin has repeatedly warned of the risk of a much broader war involving the world’s biggest nuclear powers.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies