Kerch bridge emblematic of new Russian imperialism, Kazarin says

In April 2016 Russian builders completed the first support for the Kerch bridge intended to connect occupied Crimea to Russia (Image: most.life)

In April 2016 Russian builders completed the first support for the Kerch bridge intended to connect occupied Crimea to Russia (Image: most.life) 

2016/04/18 • Analysis & Opinion, Crimea, Russia

Even though Moscow is facing difficulties financial as well as technical building its bridge to occupied Crimea, there can be little doubt that it will finally build it, according to Pavlo Kazarin, because this bridge, like the Sochi Olympiad is not about business but rather about personal wealth and imperial greatness.

Pavlo Kazarin

Pavlo Kazarin

And that comparison with Sochi suggests others as well: the corruption and malpractice involved in organizing this effort will be commented upon but generally ignored with some rushing to declare another victory for Vladimir Putin, and the real costs left afterwards both at the site and to other Russians will be even more completely dismissed.

In a comment on RFE/RL’s Crimean realities page, the Russian observer is explicit: “The Kerch bridge is like the Sochi Olympics. It is not simply infrastructure but a real imperial symbol,” and thus its construction will continue despite all obstacles in order to show the power of the state.

Russian militarism, the occupation of Crimea and its continued undeclared war in Ukraine has long undone any public relations benefits Russia received from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the most expensive Olympic Games in history. (Image: Marijn via Twitter)

Russian militarism, the occupation of Crimea and its continued undeclared war in Ukraine has long undone any public relations benefits Russia received from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the most expensive Olympic Games in history. (Image: Marijn via Twitter)

Many in Ukraine do not appear to understand this, Kazarin says, and routinely express skepticism about the project given the softness of the sea floor there, the strong currents, and other engineering difficulties. “But none of this has any particular importance” given that “Moscow seized Crimea not according to arithmetic budgetary logic.”

Moscow “needed [Crimea] as a demonstration of greatness,” he continues, “and compared to the summary losses from annexation both direct and indirect, the cost of the bridge looks even relatively modest.” In short, Moscow is displaying the same logic on the Kerch bridge that it did in Sochi.

To be sure, it was “strange” and “irrational” to organize a winter Olympics “in the Sochi subtropics … but if it was necessary to do so, they would do it,” he writes.

And this is part of a larger issue, the commentator suggests. “The prospects for the completion of this or that infrastructure object in Russia” don’t depend on the logic of the project itself but on the strength of those behind it who will be its immediate financial beneficiaries and on the ways in which that project suggests the greatest of the Russian state.

Moscow will cut the pay of its workers but not of those close to Putin who will benefit from government largesse. And the main company involved with the Kerch bridge is headed by Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo sparring partner and still one of the Kremlin leader’s “closest friends.”

That “biographic detail,” Kazarin says, “is the best indication that the 246 billion [ruble] project will be carried out to the end. Because this is not only an imperial project but also a personal one,” just as was the case with Sochi and indeed with “the entire history of the annexation of Crimea. Nothing business, only personal.”

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Oknemfrod

    >Many in Ukraine do not appear to understand this, Kazarin says, and routinely express skepticism about the project given the softness of the sea floor there, the strong currents, and other engineering difficulties. “But none of this has any particular importance” given that “Moscow seized Crimea not according to arithmetic budgetary logic.”<

    Speaking of logic, this is a curious piece of it in and by itself. As if the softness of the sea floor, strong currents, mud slides, quakes, mud volcanoes, storm gales, etc. can be overcome by sheer will and unlimited money supply, particularly considering the fact that the company "building" the bridge has no expertise building bridges. References to Crimea and the Olympics are irrelevant in the context because no factors listed above were pertinent in the either situation.

    • Alex George

      Yes.

      I find his optimism… peculiar!

    • Quartermaster

      I disagree with you. The Sochi Olympics was little more than a way for Putin and his friends to line their pockets. Stealing Crimea was the same. Attempting to build a bridge across the Kerch Straits is also part of the Russian criminal regime and its friends to line their pockets. Whether the bridge stands or not is irrelevant. Someone is going to be paid for all the work, no matter how useless it is, and the usual suspects are lining up, waiting for Putin to open the spigot.

      • Oknemfrod

        Fair enough, and I agree with what you’re saying, but I fail to see what that is in my post you disagree with. The gist of my message is that if something is physically impossible to accomplish, it can’t be changed by will and money thrown at it. It doesn’t mean they won’t be doing it even if it were a bridge to the Moon, since the goal, as you’ve pointed out, is different.

        • Quartermaster

          The bridge may turn out to be incidental, but the goal is to get some money moving so the proceeds of Putin’s corruption can be spread around.

  • Alex George

    What Mr Kazarin leaves out is that Mr Rotenberg’s company has never built a bridge. Any kind of bridge.

    And now they are going to build a 4.6 km bridge that carries four lanes of traffic, two railway lines, plus electric cables and other infrastructure, as their FIRST bridge project? And over a stretch of open water that has never before in history been spanned.

    Right…

    • Oknemfrod

      Much worse. It’s 19 km rather than 4.6, and it has been spanned by people who had actually known how to build bridges… only the span was demolished by the very first ice floe after the bridge was built.