MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti) - On August 24, newly elected authorities in Kiev held a military parade on the main street of Khreshchatyk – the first such event since Ukraine’s President Victor Yanukovych had been ousted in February, according to columnist Maxim Sokolov.
The parade has generated considerable interest for several reasons.
Firstly, military parades in the 23 years of Ukraine’s existence as an independent state have been rare, with only four parades featuring both troops and military hardware – in 1994, 1998, 2001 and 2007. The current parade is the fifth in over two decades. Ukraine has no well-established traditions of staging military parades, like the annual military parade held on July 14 on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris. The reason for the scant entertainment is simple – lack of money. That is why the parade that was supposed to be held in 2011 was canceled. At the time, president Yanukovich faced no significant enemies and he had no reason to show off his military strength.
For their part, the new Ukrainian authorities understand why the country needs an army and parades. A bloody, fierce war is raging in Donbas, leaving no room for peace. Instead, this regime, like 18th century revolutionary France and Russia in 1918, is paying high regard to state symbols, especially militaristic ones. If anything, symbology is more important for Ukraine today, as it sits on the edge of default, than in 2011 when Yanukovych canceled the parade.
Undoubtedly, parades are expensive, but this one came at a cost. In the days leading up to the parade not only were social benefits cut even spending for Ukraine’s foreign missions was reduced. This extravagance comes from a country that is begging the world for money, something which should normally only be done as a last resort. However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin urged Germany to provide financial aid according to the “Merkel Plan” reminiscent of the US’s Marshall Plan.
In his speech during the parade Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Ukraine is in a state of war, notably with a foreign entity (hinting at Russia). Revolutions and war require massive spending; whether or not Ukraine is able to fund their campaign, someone else will pay for what is happening, either the future generations of Ukrainians, the defeated enemy, or foreign countries with their generous aid. The important thing is that Ukraine's military expenses can be negligible.
The parade was held with grandiosity and was reminiscent of those in the Soviet era. This is, on the one hand, ironic because rejection of any continuity with our Soviet past is essential to the present Ukrainian ideology. Made even more ironic as the parade involves Soviet military hardware and is staged using Soviet aesthetics. On the other hand, where would Ukraine get new military hardware and new aesthetics? Kiev only has what they have acquired from Russia and the Soviets. Kiev obviously had to come to terms with the fact that Soviet military style doesn’t match the ideology of their “European Shlyah (Path)”. Kiev rarely mentions “European Shlyah” these days because no amount of spin can present the Donbas campaign as a cute civilized European response. There is enough cuteness in Luhansk, Horlivka, Donetsk to sink a battleship.
There is also another issue. According to military tradition, the armed forces may become involved in civil war (who else can be used to fight?) in case of need. But military rituals in civil wars are simpler, medals and military parades honoring the victory of one part of the population over another is not very customary. Its more common for governments not to award medals to those who fought in a civil war. Consequently, this military parade celebrated the power of the Ukrainian weapons, directed at the Ukrainian people, a misplaced ideology. The only way out of this trap, chosen by Poroshenko, is to present the conflict in Donbas not as a civil war or a war between Russia and Ukraine, but, – expanding it to be the first flashes of a Third World War. Ukraine tries to look like a vanguard that sacrifices itself to put out the flames of a fire. So why shouldn’t the vanguard march in a parade?
All of these ideological schemes should be assessed from the point of view of their effectiveness. If they work, well then it’s à la guerre comme à la guerre. If they don’t work, then it’s à la guerre comme à la guerre as well. It remains uncertain whether Kiev has managed to inspire the Ukrainian people by turning themselves inward to war. If it only partially managed, then the parade was held in vain.
The more so, because simultaneously another military parade was held in Donetsk – Ukrainian captives were marched through the city center serving as a reminder of when German prisoners of war, were marched through the center of Moscow (the Big Waltz March), in 1944 or the Roman triumphs, when newly captured slaves were paraded before Cesear. Judging by the first reaction, the parade in Donetsk has left a strong impression on Ukrainian citizens. The effect of the parade in Kiev is inseparable from the effect of the one in Donetsk.