Whatever hopes Vladimir Putin may have had to celebrate a Russian victory over Ukraine on May 9, the reality is that he has merely damaged Russia itself.

Russian President Putin’s Victory Day speech was remarkable for what it did not say. writes former US Ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, in Europe’s Edge.  There was no claim of victory over Ukraine; no liberation of Ukraine from imaginary Nazi rule; no general mobilization for war; no recognition of new Eastern Ukrainian People’s Republics; no launch of a Novorossiya; and no annexation of new lands to the Russian Federation. Such claims, had they been made, would have lacked all credibility given the actual state of play in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Instead, Putin sought mainly to justify his invasion of Ukraine as a “necessary” defense against an imagined NATO threat to Russia. That this was his only thematic point is extremely revealing.

First, it means that Russia’s war casualties cannot be concealed from the public, no matter how much Putin tries to suppress information. He needed to give the public a justification for why lives have been lost.

Second, it means that Putin himself knows that the war has not gone well. In the West, we speculate endlessly about whether Putin has access to accurate information and good advice, or whether he lives in a bubble believing his own rhetoric. His Victory Day speech indicates he well understands what’s really going on.

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