Trump drew from Putin’s playbook by using WWII as unifying message in State of the Union

  • President Donald Trump tapped heavily into World War II nostalgia during his State of the Union address in an effort to send a unifying message to Americans.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has for many years used the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II as a means of trying to unify Russians.
  • Trump’s nostalgic rhetoric on World War II was reminiscent of statements often uttered by Russian leaders.

President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address focused heavily on America’s victory in World War II as a unifying message, which has parallels to tactics employed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As he celebrated three D-Day veterans in attendance, Trump said, “In June, we mark 75 years since the start of what General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the Great Crusade – the Allied liberation of Europe in World War II. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, 15,000 young American men jumped from the sky, and 60,000 more stormed in from the sea, to save our civilisation from tyranny.”

Trump said that “everything that has come since” the US victory in World War II is “thanks to the blood and tears and courage and vision of the Americans who came before.”

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“When American soldiers set out beneath the dark skies over the English Channel in the early hours of D-Day, 1944, they were just young men of 18 and 19, hurtling on fragile landing craft toward the most momentous battle in the history of war,” the president said.

“They did not know if they would survive the hour. They did not know if they would grow old. But they knew that America had to prevail. Their cause was this Nation, and generations yet unborn,” he added. “Why did they do it? They did it for America – they did it for us.”

Trump State of the Union(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence listens and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reads the speech, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

Trump’s nostalgic rhetoric on World War II was reminiscent of statements often uttered by Russian leaders.

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The Soviet Union frequently employed nostalgia about World War II to reassert its authority and legitimacy, a tradition Putin – a former KGB spy – has continued as president of Russia.

Putin has used World War II – or what Russians often refer to as the Great Patriotic War – as a means of unifying Russians and attempting to re-instill a sense of pride among them following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This has been a major part of the Kremlin’s nationalistic propaganda for years.

The May 9 Victory Day parade in Moscow, which marks the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, is a huge public event in Russia every year. Putin – who has dominated Russian politics for roughly 20 years – restored this Soviet tradition and oversees the parade, delivering a speech each year.

Putin has often used his Victory Day speech to take jabs at the US.

In his May 2018 speech, for example, Putin said, “We remember the tragedy of two world wars, about the threats of history. They don’t allow us to turn a blind-eye. Behind new threats show through the same old monstrous features: selfishness and intolerance, aggressive nationalism and claims to exceptionalness.”

The Russian leader was seemingly condemning the concept of American exceptionalism.

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