Destroying the Crimea bridge is a bad idea

Iulia Sabina Joja is a Romanian ex-pat who works for several foreign-policy NGOs and teaches at Georgetown and George Washington Universities.

She recently wrote an op-ed titled "We must stop Russia's land bridge to Crimea — and destroy the Kerch Strait bridge now."

By "land bridge," Prof. Joja meant control of the north coast of the Sea of Azov all the way from Russia proper to the Isthmus of Perekop, which is the only land connection Crimea has with the rest of the world.  And by "we," she meant that "[t]he Ukrainian military must destroy the [Azov Sea north shore] bridge.  But it can only do so if the Biden administration shows itself ready to finally and properly stand up to Russia."

Basically, Prof. Joja wants the Biden administration to send as much in armaments as Ukraine will need to oust Russian forces from all territories on the Ukrainian side of the pre-2014 border with Russia.  She asks, "What can be done to prevent Russia from securing the Crimean land bridge?" and answers, "A start would be the destruction of the Kerch Strait bridge connecting Russia with Crimea."

After seizing and annexing Crimea in 2014, Russia built an engineering marvel: a 12-mile-long bridge across the Strait of Kerch, connecting the Taman Peninsula to Kerch in Crimea.  The bridge didn't exist before 2014, and it was built because Crimea essentially is an island.

Prof. Joja wants to destroy not only the "land bridge" along the north shore of the Sea of Azov going through Ukrainian territory, but also the real bridge that now crosses the Kerch Strait.

This is a bad idea.  In the first place, Ukraine is increasingly unlikely to achieve any such war aims.  But let's say plucky Ukraine manages to oust Russia from all Ukrainian territories it now controls.  Ukraine is not going to be able to seize Crimea from Russia also.  The whole reason why Russia seized Crimea in the first place was that it feared that Crimea was destined to become a NATO forward staging unsinkable aircraft carrier unless it acted.

If Ukraine somehow does manage to deprive Russia of control of the land bridge along the north shore of the Sea of Azov, Russia will need the real bridge across the Kerch Strait even more than ever.  Destroying this bridge would only harden Russian resolve to fight its war to a successful conclusion.

When a burglar invades your house and you confront him, unless you have both the power and determination to kill him at an acceptable cost to yourself, you are better off allowing him to escape.  If you trap him and he realizes there is no escape and his only remaining choice is to kill you or die trying, he will fight you to the death.  In his own autobiography, Vladimir Putin tells the story of the time when he was a boy and he had cornered a rat that wanted to escape but was unable, so then turned on Putin himself and attacked him, and Putin had to fight him to the death.

Destroying the Kerch Strait bridge will force the rat that lives inside Putin to fight Ukraine to the death.  Prof. Joja's idea is a terrible idea that can only lead to a wider war.

Image: Terra-MODIS.

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