Victory Day Celebration in Moscow, 2023

Victory Day has been celebrated in the Soviet Union and, subsequently, Russia every May 9th since 1945, commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War (as World War II is called there). (Although the German surrender was signed late on May 8th in local time in Germany, this was May 9th in the time zone of Moscow.) This is the 2023 celebration, which was subdued compared to previous years, with only one vintage T-34 tank in the parade. Vladimir Putin’s speech occurs between 25:05 and 31:00 in this video, but is not translated.

France 24 English has released this video of Putin’s speech dubbed in English with, in addition, English subtitles you can enable. Commentary follows the speech, which is ten minutes in length.


If you’re in the mood for something hilarious, play this video of Putin’s speech from Sky News and turn on subtitles with the little text box at the bottom. YouTube’s “artificial intelligence” caption generator will render Putin’s Russian as roll-on-the-floor bad English lip reading.

Update: This was just way too funny, and YouTube appears to have disabled the automatically-generated subtitles on every live stream replay of Putin’s speech. (2023-05-09 19:05 UTC)


In winter 1980, I was in my surgery internship. I had two weeks vacation and my (then) wife and I decided we wanted to not face crowds on vacation. Thus we decided to visit someplace not sought after over Christmas/New year. It just so happened that the Smithsonian had an organized trip to Russia for one chartered Pan Am 707 full worth of US tourists. We went.

Among the many interesting and surprising things we experienced was the highly-visible and prominent place the WWII victory over Nazi Germany played in Russian culture. It was mentioned many times in the tours of various institutions; there were many, many impressive monuments and memorials. Only 35 - 40 years later, did I come to understand - in reading newer histories of WWII - the horrendous death toll and sacrifices of the USSR in defeating the Nazis. Though Stalin and Hitler were, IMHO, equally evil, defeat of Germany without Russia’s efforts might never have ben accomplished. Or, it might have taken years longer.


The following is from my review of Victor Davis Hanson’s The Second World Wars (emphasis added):

By contrast [with the Axis, whose countries pursued independent strategies], the Allies rapidly settled on a division of labour: the Soviet Union would concentrate on infantry and armoured warfare (indeed, four out of five German soldiers who died in the war were killed by the Red Army), while Britain and the U.S. would deploy their naval assets to blockade the Axis, keep the supply lines open, and deliver supplies to the far-flung theatres of the war. U.S. and British bomber fleets attacked strategic targets and cities in Germany day and night. The U.S. became the untouchable armoury of the alliance, delivering weapons, ammunition, vehicles, ships, aircraft, and fuel in quantities which eventually surpassed those all other combatants on both sides combined. Britain and the U.S. shared technology and cooperated in its development in areas such as radar, antisubmarine warfare, aircraft engines (including jet propulsion), and nuclear weapons, and shared intelligence gleaned from British codebreaking efforts.

When Russians speak of their victory in defeating Germany, when it comes to actual combat on the ground, they are not exaggerating their part.


The Roosevelt administration sent the today’s equivalent of $218 billion to Stalin and the Soviet Union during WW2:


Alas, subtitles/captions not available here.

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If that number is accurate, it was a tremendous bargain when compared to the estimated US$ 2.313 trillion spent for nothing in Afghanistan or US$ 1.1 trillion for wrecking Iraq.


The Soviets only spent around $75 billion of today’s dollars for their Afghanistan invasion according to CIA.


This type of conversion strikes me as just how understated CPI has been over the years. I suspect the BLS economists that fudge various gov numbers would use the hedonic quality argument.

Certainly every piece of military equipment is far superior. However, the same is true of farm equipment. With farm equipment this improvement directly correlates to productivity and it is more economical to harvest an acre today versus in the 1940s. In other words the improvements more than pay for the added cost. What does it say that we pay so much more for wars in 1940 dollars? Incorrect inflation adjustment, poor investment into technology that doesn’t pay for itself, or maybe war is now safer for our soldiers?

Something doesn’t add up because it is not due to an arms race where the added cost without war productivity improvements could be explained by the more difficult enemy.


One thing which has been widely observed about modern military forces is that the “tooth to tail ratio” has continually fallen over the years with the result that for every actual warfighter who might come in contact with the enemy there are hordes of support personnel, technicians, logistics delivery troops and management organisations, and a human wave of what are essentially bureaucrats in the Pentagon creating and ignoring great landslides of documents and PowerPoint presentations. This is how you end up spending the better part of a trillion dollars per year (FY 2024 DOD budget request is US$ 842 billion) to field a military of 1,359,685 active duty personnel plus 799,845 reservists. Let’s call it around two million total and round the budget down to US$ 800 billion. Then DOD is spending around US$ 400,000 per year for every active duty service member and reservist. As of the Iraq war in 2005, the tooth to tail ratio was estimated as 1:8.1 (or a combat percentage of 11%). If we divide the DOD budget by actual warfighters and count the support personnel and seat-warmers as overhead, it costs around US$ 3.6 million per year to field each combat troop.

The tooth to tail ratio in World War II was only 1:4.3. However, it was much worse in Korea (1:12.3) and Vietnam (1:12.9), but that can be explained by these being limited conflicts while large unrelated expenditures related to the Cold War were being funded by DOD at the same time.


If you prefer to read than listen, here is the official English translation of Putin’s Victory Day speech from

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In the meantime, Russians are surrendering to Ukrainian quadcopter drones:


Also, here’s an example of drone-enabled trench warfare: