Does Vladimir Putin's Strategy Collapse with the Collapse of the Crimean Bridge?
Following the explosion that damaged the Crimean bridge, we look at its importance to Russia in the context of the war with Ukraine .
LatinAmerican Post | Luis Ángel Hernández Liborio
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Leer en español: ¿Se cae la estrategia de Vladimir Putin con el derrumbe del puente de Crimea?
In the wars that have occurred throughout history, there is always talk of crucial moments that changed its meaning, could the explosion of the Crimean bridge be one of those moments? We still do not know exactly its real impact on the war, but we can analyze the impact it has on Russian strategy after several weeks in which Putin has not been favored.
Attack or Accident?
On October 8, the explosion of a truck on the Crimean bridge caused severe damage to it. So far four people have died, according to information from the Russian government, in addition to the damage to the bridge, which is currently partially closed. Beyond the physical damage to the work, the blow has gone directly to Russian pride, which has responded with missile attacks on Ukraine.
A few days after the event, it remains a mystery how the explosion occurred, Russia has declared that it is a “terrorist attack” that comes from its enemies, while Ukraine and NATO have not claimed responsibility for the attack. What seems certain so far is that it was not an accident, so as long as Ukraine does not claim to have carried out the attack, Russia can only guess where the explosion came from. The Russian president has called for an investigation, though regardless of the outcome, his credibility has already been undermined in recent weeks. Therefore, the attack represents a double victory for Ukraine, which has closed, at least temporarily, a strategic enclave for the Russian army, and at the same time has struck Putin's pride.
A "Remarkable" Work
The bridge is a “remarkable” work from the engineering point of view, it is the longest bridge in Europe over the sea with its 19 kilometers. It was inaugurated in 2018, just four years after the controversial annexation of the Crimean Peninsula to Russia after the 2014 referendum. The work connects the Kerch Peninsula, in eastern Ukraine, and the Taman Peninsula in southwestern Russia. It is made up of two main roads, a railway and a highway that cross the Kerch Strait in parallel. It stands out for its engineering that must overcome soil problems, seismicity and extreme weather.
This work allows Russia to have quick and direct access to Crimea without having to pass through Ukrainian territory. For the inhabitants of the peninsula, it has allowed a safe and efficient supply line that has been reduced with the attack. Although Russia keeps the bridge partially open, the supply is now slower and riskier. However, the greatest weight of the bridge is geopolitical, for the Russian army it is also a strategic supply line, which, at the same time, could benefit the advance of the Ukrainian army through its southern territories. Ukraine will undoubtedly take advantage of its moment to deal another blow to Vladimir Putin, it is still difficult to determine if the attack on the bridge will be crucial in the development of the war, because beyond the mere physical damage it has shown the fragility of the Russian infrastructure in this region. In this sense, it is also an example of how easy it has been to affect the line of communication between the Crimean Peninsula and the rest of the Russian territory.
You can also read: Infographics: What Is In the Ukrainian Territories Annexed by Russia?
Is the Russian Strategy Collapsing?
With the entry of Central Europe into the European Union at the beginning of the 21st century, the official candidacies of Balkan countries to enter the European bloc and the advance of NATO towards the east in the last decade, Russia saw its influence in the region reduced. However, the turning point was Ukraine's rapprochement with the European Union and NATO, which involved a direct attack on Russian influence in Europe, practically reaching its doors. If something has characterized Vladimir Putin, at least in the collective imagination, it is his coldness and his calculated movements, his decision to annex Crimea in 2014 was carried out quickly and without an armed confrontation.
Putin's claims over the Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhia regions in Ukraine seemed to be able to be achieved in the same way as in Crimea, but the crisis unleashed in the neighboring country exploded with the 2022 invasion strategist, who has been undermined in recent weeks with decisions such as the mobilization of 300,000 reservists in September. Action that caused the flight of thousands of young Russians from their country. His image deteriorates rapidly, so the explosion on the bridge pays to continue destroying his international and, above all, national image.
One of the objectives of the sanctions on Russia has been to turn the Russians themselves against him, something that could start to happen if he continues with erratic and hasty decisions. Putin's response to the explosion on the Crimean bridge must be careful, beyond missile attacks, if he does not want to tarnish his image further. The Ukrainian defense ministry has taken the opportunity to provoke the Russian leader with videos and messages mocking what happened, pushing Putin to be on high alert, a scenario that could trigger an abrupt and erratic response that could cost him the war.