Geopolitical Insights

SITREP – Attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge Linking Crimea and Russia

October 9, 2022
What has Happened:
  • Earlier today, an explosion rocked the Kerch Strait bridge (Europe’s longest), which is a pair of rail and road crossings connecting the occupied Crimean Peninsula to Russia.
  • In June, a Ukrainian General said that the Kerch Strait bridge was “target number one” and that Ukraine had attained technical drawings of the bridge.
  • The Ukrainian government, while praising the attack (which is believed to have been caused by a truck bomb), did not immediately claim responsibility.
  • Without the full use of this bridge, Russia will be significantly limited in its ability to transport fuel, equipment, and munitions to its units fighting Ukrainian forces in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions (two of the four regions that Russia had annexed on September 30th).
  • The attack is a logistical and psychological blow to Russia as its forces have continued to suffer major defeats on the battlefield (including in areas that Russia had recently annexed).
  • If Ukraine indeed executed this attack, it would not be the first time its forces have targeted Crimea (Ukraine launched a missile strike on Russia's Saky military base in August).
  • This incident will likely result in retaliation by Russia, potentially escalating the conflict in Ukraine that is now in its eighth month.
Why it Matters:

“The Ukrainian attack on the Kerch Strait bridge further isolates Russian forces in Crimea. Ukrainian forces are making advances against Russian forces in the Kherson region. If their success in the vicinity of Kherson continues, Crimea could be totally cut off from the remaining Russian forces in Ukraine. However (and significantly), this does not increase the likelihood of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons to regain a tactical advantage. Putin is aware that the use of nukes will bring escalation that he will not be able to control. The loss of the Kerch Strait bridge is a tactical loss. As the fighting moves into the winter and Ukrainian forces possibly get stretched thin, Putin can recover from this operational loss without resorting to the irreversible strategic nuclear option.” – General James "Spider" Marks

  “The center of gravity in the war has become the will of the Ukrainian and Russian people to continue their support of Zelensky and Putin. The attack on the bridge is symbolic as was the sinking of the Russian Navy’s flagship Moskva. It sends a clear message to both sides that Russian assets are at risk anywhere and that Putin’s military is unable to protect them. The bridge lies over two hundred miles from the front lines. It was a legitimate target that the Russian military uses for resupply. Zelensky is winning the information war when most thought that Putin was the expert of persuasion. The morale of the Russian military (and people) is already low, and this is yet another challenge for Putin. He is losing the war while trying to reassure his people that the war is still in his favor. The attack helps Zelensky in his campaign to maintain western support. Of great concern is that it comes at a time when Putin is being backed into a corner and threatens to use nuclear weapons. I expect him to double down on his attacks on civilian infrastructure with the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant at high risk.” – General Robert Walsh