US President Donald Trump wants a military parade, according to the Pentagon.
A military official told the Washington Post he requested a display “like the one in France,” after he was French President Emmanuel Macron’s guest on Bastille Day last year, and much impressed by the annual show of military might.
He was also much impressed by a troop display put on in his honor during a November visit to China, where massive military parades have become more common under President Xi Jinping.
The move has attracted criticism from some in the US, with retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton saying it underscores Trump’s “authoritarian tendencies” and any parade would be about honoring Trump, not the military.
While almost all countries host military parades involving troops and veterans, those on the scale of France or China are rare. Rarer still are parades involving high-tech weaponry, tanks and other heavy equipment, which Trump has reportedly requested.
The last major military parade in the US was to mark victory in the Gulf War in 1991, under President George H W Bush. According to the Washington Post, opinion was “sharply divided” at the time over the appropriateness of that display.
Every year, thousands of French troops parade down the Champs-Élysées in Paris in a dramatic show of pageantry to mark the storming of the Bastille military prison in 1789, a turning point in the French Revolution.
July 14 has been an official holiday in France since 1880, and the military parade is a major part of that. The display has also been a key diplomatic tool: in 1994, German soldiers took part to symbolize reconciliation between the two countries, while last year, Trump was in Paris to join commemorations honoring the centennial of US entry into World War I.
It is the the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe, according to France 24.
Led by French President Emmanuel Macron, the 2017 parade involved 3,720 soldiers, 211 vehicles, and 241 horses, as well as flybys of dozens of planes and helicopters. France does not display ballistic missiles or other heavy weapons, as some countries do.
Big military displays are rare in Western Europe, with no such parades of equivalent size in Germany or the UK, though the Queen’s Household regiments regularly conduct smaller ceremonial displays and Belgium holds an annual military parade.
Since President Xi came to power in 2012, military parades have become more common, as he seeks to cement control over and reform the colossal People’s Liberation Army.
In 2015, Beijing hosted a massive military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, involving some 12,000 troops, 200 fighter jets, hundreds of ballistic missiles, tanks, amphibious assault vehicles, drones and other military equipment.
Hundreds of factories were shut in the build up to the event to ensure crystal blue skies, flights in and out of Beijing were canceled for the parade’s duration and, just to ensure that the city’s airspace was safe, monkeys, falcons and dogs were deployed to scare away birds.
Last year saw two big displays of military might. In June, Xi inspected PLA forces in Hong Kong as part of celebrations to mark 20 years of Chinese control over the semi-autonomous city.
The following month, he oversaw a parade in China’s far-northern province of Inner Mongolia, in which more than 100 planes and almost 600 types of weaponry – many never seen before – went on show to mark the PLA’s 70th anniversary.
Like Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin is a big fan of military parades.
Moscow hosts an annual event to mark Victory Day, which celebrates the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany in a series of battles that ended on May 9, 1945.
In 2015, this saw Russia’s biggest ever military parade, with some 16,000 soldiers, 200 armored vehicles, 150 planes and helicopters, as well as ballistic missiles and other assorted hardware put on show.
Last year more than 10,000 troops took part, as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles, armored tanks and new aircraft systems. In July, it was the Navy’s turn, with an “unprecedented” series of parades and demonstrations held in all four corners of its vast territory, as well as at Russian bases abroad.
Massive military parades in Pyongyang have become a key bellwether of the isolated state’s intentions and technical prowess, with analysts closely examining ballistic missiles shown off by leader Kim Jong Un for clues about North Korea’s weapons program.
While large intercontinental ballistic missiles were once dismissed as non-functioning mockups, they are now very real, symbols of a weapons program that has attracted intense international sanctions and sparked concerns in Washington, Tokyo and Seoul.
Parades are held on key dates in the North Korea calendar, celebrating the country’s military or marking the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung.
Last year, Pyongyang showed off a bevy of new missiles and launchers, as well as tanks, submarine-launched weapons, and thousands of troops.
This week will see another such display of force, with North Korea planning a major parade on the eve of the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
While not as frequent as its neighbor, South Korea also conducts large military parades, with a 2013 display involving around 11,000 troops, dozens of aircraft, and 190 weapons systems, according to the Associated Press.