Timestamp: Monday morning July 18, 2023
I’m getting a little literary here but I decided to title this article, A Bridge Too Far, because in many ways that’s exactly what happened and will happen. We know that the Kerch Strait Bridge was significantly damaged by an apparent drone strike. Much past that calls for speculation. Please cross those bridges with me in the next few paragraphs.
First some background on the bridge itself. In 2014 Russia invaded large portions of Crimea. In 2018 it built the bridge to have a land connection to the Russian mainland.
One of Vladimir Putin’s goals is to reconstruct the former USSR. The invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea is the beginning of that in his mind and many Russians’ minds. The bridge is as much symbolic of that as it is practical for military and (at this point to a much lesser degree) commercial purposes. The symbolism runs both ways. To the Ukrainian people the bombing is the severing of Russia from what perceive as their territory. This is a bit of a stretch, but think of how Americans would feel if Russia invaded and then occupied part of Alaska and then built a bridge over the Bering Strait. Now think of how Americans would feel if part of that bridge was disabled.
Russia has blamed Ukraine for the bridge attack. The Ukrainians have yet to claim responsibility. This is a rare case where I believe the Russians.
Just hours after the bridge attack Russia backed out of the deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey, that allowed Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea. They claimed the two acts were unrelated. This time I certainly don’t believe the Russians! I feel that move will prove a bridge too far that Russia will regret.
Ukrainian grain that will not be able to get to market will be a huge economic hardship for Ukraine. No doubt about that. To that point Russia wins, but that’s where the winning ends for Putin.
In the poorest countries this will cause starvation. That is never a good thing and the repercussion will be many and varied.
It is what this will do to wealthier countries that may well bite Vlad in the butt the hardest. I’ll use the USA and UK as examples but a lot of other wealthier western countries will be in similar situations. Few, if any, will starve but the cost of food (inflation) will rise. That is a huge political problem, with serious economic repercussions, in places like the USA and UK. Needless to say, it will not make the leadership of either country happy. (As an aside note, much of that inflation will be fueled by speculators and profiteers.) An unhappy Joe Biden-led West will be increasingly likely to continue supplying Ukraine for what has developed into a proxy war. Ukraine cannot defeat Russia on its own; it simply lacks the resources. It has proven that with significant western aid (both military and economic) it can more than hold its own. Putin’s best chance was to wait the West out. Already in America we are seeing a pro-Russian position being taken by portions of the Republican party. Russia’s move will not help expedite that process.
It’s early and much pain will be endured before it’s over but I think Ukraine will end up celebrating the bombing of the bridge as a turning point when this is all over. Russia went too far.
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