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