Soviet-Style Display of Might Fills Red Square

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, May 10, 2008

MOSCOW, May 9 -- The Red Square parade, once a Soviet standard, enjoyed a revival Friday as phalanxes of military hardware, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, rumbled noisily over paving stones to deliver a message: The bear is back.

Moscow had not seen a show like this year's since 1990, when the Soviets last commemorated the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Within a year, the Soviet Union was no more.

In the mid-1990s, Russians began to celebrate victory in World War II with a parade on May 9. But the festivities were stripped of displays of weaponry until this year, the 63rd anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Eight thousand goose-stepping troops, glamorous in their newly designed uniforms, as well as tanks, armored vehicles and missiles crossed the square Friday. Strategic bombers and fighter planes roared above.

President Dmitry Medvedev, presiding over his first public ceremony, said Russia's military was "gaining in strength and power like all of Russia."

And drawing from the playbook of his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, who stood beside him, Medvedev appeared to criticize the United States without actually mentioning it by name.

"We must not allow contempt for the norms of international law," Medvedev said, warning against "intentions to intrude in the affairs of other states, and especially redraw borders."

Russia has criticized Kosovo's recent declaration of independence from Serbia, which the United States supported.

"The history of world wars warns us that armed conflicts do not erupt on their own," Medvedev said. "They are fueled by those whose irresponsible ambitions overpower the interests of countries and whole continents, the interests of millions of people."

At last year's parade, Putin appeared to compare the United States to Nazi Germany. The Kremlin later denied that was his intention.

Putin, who is prime minister, and Medvedev watched the parade from a reviewing stand -- unlike Soviet leaders, who used to stand on top of the mausoleum containing the preserved body of Lenin, the first Soviet leader.

"This isn't saber rattling," Putin said earlier this week about the parade. "We're not threatening anyone, and we don't plan to do so. We're not imposing anything on anyone. We have enough of everything. This is a demonstration of our growing potential in the area of defense."

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