U.S. infantry march through Red Square
President Dmitry Medvedev struck a conciliatory note at Russia’s Victory Day military parade on Sunday, urging world powers to unite for peace and defending his decision to invite NATO troops to march on Red Square.
For the first time since Stalin began commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, serving U.S., British Polish and French troops joined over 11,000 Russian soldiers to parade past the Kremlin’s red walls in bright sunshine.
The opposition Communists and some Soviet war veterans condemned the move but Medvedev said in a speech that the lesson from World War Two was “to urge us to unite in solidarity” to counter present-day threats and ensure global security.
“Today, at the military parade, soldiers of Russia, of countries of the (former Soviet Union), and of the Allied powers will march together, in one column which is evidence of our common readiness to defend peace,” he said.
Symbolic – for those of us with personal memories of the war – of the united battle to the death against murder, corporate control of national and global economies, genocide and greed.
Welsh Guards from the British military marched in their trademark black bearskin hats ahead of 70 troops from the U.S. 170th Infantry Brigade in a section reserved for the Soviet Union’s war allies.
Underlining the message of reconciliation, a 1,200-strong military band closed the parade with a moving rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Hu Jintao and other world leaders looked on…
President Barack Obama, unable to come to Moscow because of a scheduling clash, praised the historic invitation to NATO troops, saying Medvedev had shown “remarkable leadership in honoring the sacrifices of those who came before us…”
Victory Day is one of Russia’s most important public holidays and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said this year’s commemorations would be among the biggest, with over 102,000 troops marching in cities across this vast country.
Americans and Brits raised on movies about “how we won the war” will know little of the Soviet Forces that had pushed the Nazis back 1,000 miles by D-Day. Though our neighbors across the pond do celebrate V-E Day as I remember it. A crucial triumph against fascism. War’s end in Europe.
The last of my kin who joined up with Soviet forces at the Elbe River is gone, now. A few of us still remember – proudly.