On May 8th, 1945, the United States of America, and countries around the world, celebrated the official end of World War II in Europe. Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered its armed forces to the Allies of World War II (United States of America, Great Britain, and The Soviet Union). World War II is the deadliest conflict in history, involved nearly 80% of the world’s population, and over 55,000,000 people were killed. The United States of America led the Allied forces fighting in Western and Southern Europe, Africa, and Asia, and the Soviet Union conquered Germany from the East. Without America’s sacrifice and leadership, no historian has ever argued that Nazi Germany would have been defeated.
Last week in Russia, President Vladimir Putin led the celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe in Victory Day Parades throughout the country. The parade in Moscow featured over 16,000 Russian soldiers, tanks, missiles, and impressive military hardware. It was the largest military parade in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Throughout Russia, there were over 20 such parades, featuring over 80,000 soldiers and impressive weaponry.
In the United States, President Obama marked the day in comments he gave to the Air Force football team. Also, National Security Advisor Susan Rice “conveyed the gratitude of the U.S. nation to the Allied countries” at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
President Putin sees his country as a leader in the world, wants to have people forget about the horrors of communism the Soviet Union inflicted on the globe during the 20th century, and is willing to use the Russian military to conquer its neighbors. In the past few years, Russia has invaded Ukraine, killed thousands, implemented martial law on conquered people, and imposed its will on Ukrainians. Russian airplanes continually invade airspace of its neighbors, and Russia is supporting the ruthless dictator Assad of Syria, as well as supporting the terrorist regime in Iran. Meanwhile, there is no freedom of speech in Russia, as dissenting journalists are murdered.
American President Obama sees his country as one of many, “leading from behind,” wants to have people forget the U.S. leadership in great conflicts such as World War II and the Cold War, and wants the Americans to retreat. In the past few years, America has withdrawn its forces in Iraq and allowed ISIS to invade and reconquer land held by American and Iraqi forces. Obama backed down from an American threat to use military force to punish Syrian dictator Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people (Assad is still using these weapons against Syrians). The U.S.A. has lost allies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen and the President has done nothing to regain American trust in those regions.
Celebrations of V-E Day are more than just honoring those who served their country. These events are calculated to show what each country values, and how each country views itself. Putin’s Russia is an aggressive country that is eager to use its military to exert influence in the world. Putin’s Russia wants to ignore or its communist past, silence its detractors, and expand. Obama’s America is a weakened country that is embarrassed of its past and eager to retreat. Obama’s America wants to deny its role in defeating communism and expanding liberty, silence those who honor the U.S., and radically transform itself. Which of these visions prevail may determine the direction of the world for the next half century.
1. What happened on May 8th, 1945?
2. How did President Putin of Russia celebrate it?
3. How did President Obama celebrate it?
4. How does the author of this editorial think this tells us of how Putin and Obama view their own country?
5. What is your opinion of how the U.S.A. and how Russia remembered this day?