The Kremlin is intent on displaying the attack on the Crimea bridge wasn’t that severe and that the essential lifeline from the Russian mainland to the illegally-annexed Crimean Peninsula shall be again to regular quickly.
The bodily harm will be restored — Russia instantly dispatched a big emergency workforce to the positioning — however the harm to Russia’s status and, extra importantly, to the picture of Vladimir Putin, will not be that simple to restore.
That is his bridge, his mission, constructed with the equal of virtually $4 billion from the Russian treasury. It is a symbolic “wedding ceremony band” uniting Mom Russia and Ukraine, or no less than a area that also legally belongs to Ukraine, essential not solely to Putin’s battle effort however to his obsession with bringing Ukraine again below Russia’s management.
Putin’s February 21st address to the Russian individuals, delivered simply earlier than he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, laid naked his warped view of historical past. Ukraine, he insists, will not be actually an unbiased nation: “Ukraine is not only a neighboring nation for us,” he claimed. “It’s an inalienable a part of our personal historical past, tradition and religious house.”
That speech, probably the most revealing of his presidency, makes clear that this fratricidal battle in opposition to Ukraine could be very private to him. For a few years he has been fixated on Peter the Nice, the Russian czar who based St. Petersburg, town through which Putin was born and raised. I as soon as visited town administration workplace through which Putin labored within the early Nineteen Nineties after he returned from his job as a KGB operative in East Germany. On the wall above his desk was a portrait of Peter the Nice.
In June of this 12 months, because the grinding battle in Ukraine entered its fourth month, Putin once more compared himself to Peter the Great, insisting that Peter, who conquered land from Sweden, was “returning” to Russia what really belonged to it.
Putin now, apparently, believes that returning Ukraine to Russia is his historic future. He possible sees the galling assault on the Crimea bridge not solely as an assault on the Russian homeland, however as a private affront. And he’s more likely to reply viciously.
Already, a day after the assault, Russian forces are bombing civilian apartment buildings in Ukraine. Hardline supporters of Putin are urging extra strikes on Ukraine’s infrastructure. Western leaders warn that an more and more pissed off Putin may resort to utilizing tactical nuclear weapons. Army consultants say he may retaliate asymmetrically, putting surprising targets.
For years, Putin has had one other obsession: punishing traitors. One month after his forces attacked Ukraine, he threatened to retaliate in opposition to any Russians who opposed the battle, calling them “fifth column … nationwide traitors” in thrall to the West.
This Sunday, the day after the bridge bombing, he called it a “terrorist attack” whose “authors, executors and masterminds” are the key providers of Ukraine…and “residents of Russia from overseas nations.”
One factor is obvious: because the preventing strikes nearer to Russia, Vladimir Putin sees his “historic mission” in jeopardy. And meaning feelings may outweigh motive. For Ukraine, for Russians who oppose the battle, and for the world, this can be a harmful second.