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Putin is likely to take Kerch bridge blast as a personal affront and respond viciously

Black smoke billows from a fire on the Kerch bridge, on October 8.
Black smoke billows from a hearth on the Kerch bridge, on October 8. (AFP/Getty Photos)

The Kremlin is intent on exhibiting 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 injury might be restored — Russia instantly dispatched a big emergency staff to the location — however the injury to Russia’s status and, extra importantly, to the picture of Vladimir Putin, will not be that straightforward to restore. 

That is his bridge, his challenge, constructed with the equal of just about $4 billion from the Russian treasury. It is a symbolic “marriage 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 struggle effort however to his obsession with bringing Ukraine again beneath Russia’s management.

Putin’s February 21st address to the Russian folks, delivered simply earlier than he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, laid naked his warped view of historical past. Ukraine, he insists, shouldn’t be actually an impartial nation: “Ukraine isn’t just a neighboring nation for us,” he claimed. “It’s an inalienable a part of our personal historical past, tradition and non secular area.” 

That speech, some of the revealing of his presidency, makes clear that this fratricidal struggle 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, the town during which Putin was born and raised. I as soon as visited the town administration workplace during which Putin labored within the early 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 struggle 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 truly belonged to it.

Putin now, apparently, believes that returning Ukraine to Russia is his historic future. He probably 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 prone 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 annoyed Putin would possibly resort to utilizing tactical nuclear weapons. Navy consultants say he may retaliate asymmetrically, placing 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 struggle, 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 companies of Ukraine…and “residents of Russia from international international locations.”

One factor is evident: because the preventing strikes nearer to Russia, Vladimir Putin sees his “historic mission” in jeopardy. And which means feelings may outweigh motive. For Ukraine, for Russians who oppose the struggle, and for the world, it is a harmful second.

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