This post was originally published on VICE Romania
Romania is not exactly renowned for its advanced military, but that didn't stop the thousands of Romanians from flooding the centre of Bucharest this past Sunday to see the National Day military parade through one of the worst blizzards to have ever hit the city.
As a proud Romanian, I too went to check out the parade but left with a bitter taste in my mouth. You see, to me, this military parade that takes place every year on the 1st of December is just a remnant of unjustified communist megalomania. Of course, most (if not all) countries in the world parade their war machines around their big cities every once in a while, but I'm hoping those countries have something to show.
Romania is way behind both when it comes to military budget and weaponry. The soldiers walk around holding old Kalashnikov machine guns, when the rest of the world uses American guns. We have a few tanks, but we don't have ammunition to use in war drills. It's lucky that military service is no longer mandatory, because in the last decade people were starting to pass on their boots their sons – that's how poor the military is.
I am not saying it's not okay to show some respect to the men defending your country. I was touched to see the Red Scorpions Battalion who fought in Afghanistan. Thinking how badly paid these people who are willing to die for my country are gives me goosebumps.
But I think there are ways to show our respect without parading tons of useless metal through our city. I assume there are enough bright people at the Ministry of Defence to come up with a well-orchestrated event in which Romanians could show their appreciation for their heroes.
It's embarrassing to organise a military parade, when an old military chopper crashed just a week ago – killing eight Romanian soldiers. Or when the planes the country bought second-hand from Russia won't even fly anymore.
If this year's parade had any purpose it was to transmit one single message: Romania has allies. So, Romanian soldiers marched with American marines and French, Turkish and Polish infantry forces.
I suppose it helps remind our neighbouring countries that Romania is part of NATO and that we are close to the Republic of Moldova, who also sent some soldiers to march alongside ours.
If you think about the low defence budget, the "modernised" MIG planes and helicopters that keep crashing and Russia being just a stone's throw away, you can tell that all Romania can really brag about are its NATO allies.
Whether we want to or not we are a country of modest means. Maybe it's time to start acting the part.