The thing about parades of military strength is that you need a military and it has to look strong. Unfortunately for no one, Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t have much of either on Tuesday. 

Speaking at Russia’s pared-down ‘Victory Day’ commemoration of the anniversary Soviet Union’s military triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II, Putin sang the praises of the Russian military against what can best be described as a pathetic backdrop: a procession of military vehicles in Moscow’s Red Square that included a single tank — and a lone WWII-era T-34/85, no less:

According to the Kremlin, the ‘celebration’ in Red Square had been drastically reduced compared to previous years due to security concerns following a drone attack on the Kremlin last week, which officials insisted was an attempt to assassinate Putin. Ukrainian military officials have denied involvement. 

But whether for security or for just a lack of parade-ready troops, just 8,000 Russian troops marched across Red Square this year, down from 11,000 last year and the smallest number of troops employed as part of the Victory Day celebration since 2008, Reuters reports, noting that the aerial segment of the parade was “canceled entirely.” 

But the single T-34, compared to the lines of T-14 Armata and T-90, tanks in the past, appears to underscore just how significant Russia’s tank losses have been since it launched its invasion of Ukraine. The open-source analysts behind Oryx have documented that Russia has lost nearly 2,000 tanks in the last year in Ukraine, with more than 1,100 destroyed and more than 500 captured by Ukranian forces.

The Russian military is so desperate for tanks that it is apparently dusting off ancient T-54 and T-55 tanks — which were first produced by the Soviet Union in 1948 — from storage depots in the country’s Far East to plug the widening holes in its armor formations.

The lone tank garnered a significant amount of mockery from military analysts and observers of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict online.

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Putin, as usual, seemed completely oblivious to the projected weakness of his ostensible military celebration, comparing his country’s ongoing illegal invasion of Ukraine to the challenge of rebuffing Adolf Hitler following the latter’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.

“The decisive battles for the fate of our Motherland have always become patriotic, all-national, and sacred,” Putin said, per Reuters. “A real war has again been unleashed against our homeland.”

With his frontline commanders warring with each other, his fighting force in shambles, and many of his tanks in the hands of the enemy, Putin may have to think beyond strong words to save face in his disastrous invasion of Ukraine. Until then, his show of ‘military might’ in Red Square has only one appropriate response: tanks for the laughs!

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