By: Manny EJR
Truenewsblog – The White House has warily circled a date early next month as a possible inflection point in VLADIMIR PUTIN’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian intelligence has sounded the alarms about May 9, known as “Victory Day” in Russia for the anniversary of the then-Soviet Union’s 1945 triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Putin has long favored taking dramatic action on historical markers and that day — which is traditionally celebrated with a massive military parade in Moscow — looms as a potential moment of escalation for the war, the Ukrainians have warned the White House.
On Thursday, defense officials in the United Kingdom seemed to echo that assessment when they noted : “Russia likely desires to demonstrate significant successes ahead of their annual 9th May Victory Day celebrations. This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations in the run-up to this date.”
The White House, however, has yet to see credible intelligence that Putin is planning to use May 9 to ramp up his assault, according to four senior administration officials not authorized to speak publicly about sensitive discussions.
Though Putin’s motives are far from clear, there is a growing suspicion within President JOE BIDEN ’s administration that the Russian leader may instead use the day to declare some sort of triumph around the progress made – to at least temporarily satisfy his domestic audiences and boost military morale, the officials said.
Any sort of declared victory would be flimsy compared to Putin’s initial war aims. Ukraine still stands, with its capital of Kyiv remaining under the control of President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY .
The Kremlin’s invasion plans have either fallen woefully behind schedule or been curtailed. And while Russia appears poised to ramp up its assault on the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, it seems highly unlikely it would fall before May 9, administration officials said. One of the senior officials stressed there is no sign that hostilities will end on May 9th even if Putin claims some sort of victory.
There are other potential outcomes, officials warn. Putin could claim the total capture of Mariupol, the besieged port city that the West concedes could fall to Russia in a matter of days.
On Thursday, the Russian leader declared Moscow’s military operation in that city a “success,” though Ukrainian forces were still holding out in a massive steel plant.
Putin could also just lie to his citizens about the progress of his military campaign, officials believe.
“May 9 is the most important date in Russian history right now. It’s a major event, almost religious,” said MICHAEL McFAUL, former U.S. ambassador to Russia. “It’s hard for Americans to understand how important that day is for Russians. They lost millions of people and defeated fascism – real fascism. Putin is trying to tie those threads together and claim he is doing the same now and defeat fascism in Ukraine.”
Putin has always fancied himself a Russian historian and has been fond of exploiting historical anniversaries. His war on Ukraine was launched on the night meant to mark the “Defender of the Fatherland Day,” the first mass draft into Russia’s Red Army in 1918.
Victory Day commemorates the defeat of the Nazis, and Putin has justified his invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to de-Nazify the nation — an absurd claim about a country led by a Jewish president.
Traditionally, the holiday’s massive military parade through Moscow includes thousands of soldiers and scores of tanks moving through Red Square. But U.S. officials have taken some amusement in speculating how that could happen this year when so much of Russia’s military equipment is either in Ukraine or has been destroyed in its faltering invasion.
Still, May 9 has begun to loom large for Ukrainians fighting off the Russian advance. A few weeks ago, when a glimmer of hope appeared in peace talks, some of Zelenskyy’s aides suggested to the White House that the date could be a moment when Putin ramped up diplomatic efforts for a negotiated settlement he could spin as a victory, the U.S. officials said.
That now seems unlikely, after Putin’s declarations of redoubling Russian war efforts. Instead, there is widespread belief among Western capitals that Putin, at minimum, needs to capture the Donbas region to validate his decision to launch an invasion that resulted in massive battlefield casualties and economic sanctions.
Russian forces have begun to step up their assault there, though Western officials to this point believe that the full-on ground assault may still be days or weeks away. Any victory by May 9 would be incomplete, leading many NATO allies to suspect that Mariupol may be the prize Putin seeks by the holiday.
“Remember, Putin gets to declare victory whatever that may be,” said McFaul. “He answers to no one.”