What could be the rationale for inviting Putin to take part in the celebration? Would it be the role the USSR played in the Allied effort? This was never enough before. Indeed, back in 2004, Putin became the first Russian leader ever to share in the festivities (by this time he had already instituted state control over broadcast media, dismantled the Russian electoral system and thrown his main political opponent in jail). Ten years earlier, the previous Russian president, the post-Soviet, anti-communist Boris Yeltsin, had been snubbed, painfully, by then-host François Mitterrand.
Could the rationale be that, for all his faults, Putin runs one of the great European powers and must be recognized? This would be pretty thin. First, Russia under Putin no longer considers itself a part of Europe: This is in fact the basis of the country’s recently unveiled new “cultural policy.” It is also evident in Russia’s disregard for the decisions of the European Court for Human Rights, among others. More important, Putin cannot by any stretch be considered a legitimately elected leader. He started his third presidential term in 2012 following a rigged election in which he controlled the media and ran against hand-picked opponents who didn’t campaign — and the ballot boxes still had to be stuffed. In addition, the Russian constitution sets the term limit for presidents at two.