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The Parade that Continues to Make Defense Policy

The Parade that Continues to Make Defense Policy

Since the end of the Second World War, the May Day Parade/Victory Day Parade has celebrated the Soviet Union’s defeat of the Wehrmacht and the liberation of the Soviet Union from a invasion by a foreign government. During the Cold War years, the parade was a window for many in the West into a secret society that was in direct technological competition with the United States.

As a tool of intimidation, the parade worked well, often setting off technological feats that were initially thought to be impossible to achieve. In many cases, the assumption that a weapons system was as good as policy analysts imagined spurred new research in order to compete with systems that did not perform anywhere close to the standards imagined by these experts. Some examples were the introduction of the M-50 Bounder high speed bomber and TU-22 Blinder strategic bomber, which prompted the U.S. to spend billions of dollars to defeat supposed “untouchable” tools of war. Likewise, the introduction of American systems like the Valkyrie and B-1A also pushed Soviet scientists to work harder and harder. The MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor was developed as a result, breaking speed and altitude records and remaining in service well past the experimental Valkyrie project. The May Day Parade served its purpose — it showed the West that if their cold conflict went hot, they could be at a disadvantage on the battlefield. Granted, most of these systems did not live up to their reputation, but they did keep adversaries on their toes and reticent to enter into a full war footing.

As the conflict in the Ukraine continues, it’s likely this year’s May Day Parade will be used yet again to intimidate Russia’s adversaries. Talk of a new Russian armor system, known as the Armata, has been discussed with much suspicion over the last few years, but recent photos of the actual T-14 Armata tank and accompanying systems based on the Armata hull and chassis have been released publicly, albeit with the turret covered. It is assumed that the T-14 Armata and its armored family will make their debut in the Victory Day Parade on May 9. This new tank is alleged to have defensive systems that can intercept enemy shells and rockets before making contact with the hull. While there is a debate on the true capabilities of the Armata, it is just another system possessed by Russia that can likely dominate traditional and modern adversaries on the battlefield.

While Western countries have the ability and equipment to handle threats in most parts of the world, Russian forces have a large number of advanced weapons systems that could challenge any adversary. It is hoped that intimidation will not lead to confrontation, but current and existing policy on the conflict in the Ukraine likely has had a passive effect on deterrence. As such, the conflict in Eastern Ukraine has put both rivals in a position matching the worse stalemates of the Cold War. The fate of Eastern Ukraine will be decided in Moscow, it seems, but there is hope that the May Day Parade will just remain as it has been since 1989 — simply a parade celebrating the end of a war, as opposed to a catalyst for further conflict.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

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