The Crimean Bridge and Russian Missile Escalation
The Crimean Bridge, also called the Kerch Strait Bridge, connecting mainland Russia with the eastern edge of the Crimean Kerch Peninsula, is the longest bridge in Europe. It is really two parallel bridges, one for four-lane highway traffic and the other for two parallel railroad lines, stretching for 12 miles over the Kerch Strait of the Black Sea. The bridge, which cost $3.7 billion, was started in 2014. The road bridge was opened in 2018 and the rail bridge in December 2019. The project was initiated by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin.
On October 8, a portion of two-lanes of the highway bridge was destroyed by an exploding truck. According to retired Army Colonel and military consultant Douglas MacGregor, this was an operation engineered and directed by British Special Forces, which he considers one of the most daring and formidable special operations groups in the world. Rail and most highway traffic are now continuing to move across the bridge. It should be completely repaired by mid-2023, barring further NATO damage. The military equipment traffic going from Russia to Crimea on the rail lines is currently heavy and can be dispersed as necessary in the southern Ukrainian oblasts, which were recently annexed by the Russian Federation.
Perhaps the most important thing Americans need to know about Ukraine to understand the origins and continuation of the war is that 17 percent of the Ukrainian population is Russian. They speak Russian at home, are culturally Russian, and mostly belong to the Russian Orthodox Church with its Patriarchate in Moscow. This Russian minority is a majority in southern and eastern Ukraine and have been strong supporters of pro-Russian candidates in national elections.
Ruling ethnic Ukrainian politicians have generally tried to make their country more Ukrainian and pro-Western in culture, and in doing so have practiced what amounts to ethnic cultural cleansing of the Russian minority. Besides the pure Russian ethnics, at least 20 percent of Ukrainians are of mixed Russian and Ukrainian culture, and they often sympathize with Russian viewpoints. The Donbas War, which began in 2014, after the coup d’état overthrow (Maidan Revolution) of pro-Russian President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was about Ukrainian suppression of Russian language, culture, and sympathies especially in the two most heavily Russian oblasts of Lugansk and Donetsk. I will not go into detail in this article, but the Ukrainian Army and especially the so-called Azov Special Operations Regiment, which is part of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, have often been brutal in their suppression of Russian ethnicity. Over 10,000 civilians have been killed in the Donbas War since 2014.
The results of recent Russian annexation referendums in four majority-Russian oblasts were not held under ideal conditions and are unlikely to be accepted by Western powers, but those populations were strongly Russian, and many of the former Ukrainian residents are now refugees in Western Ukraine, Poland, and other countries. Perfect conditions would probably have resulted in less overwhelming majorities, but the results would likely be the same. According to Canadian independent journalist, Eva Bartlett, who was in Donetsk, the Ukrainian Army fired artillery shells into the center of the city during the vote, killing and badly wounding many civilians.
Meanwhile, Russian military forces in Ukraine have been transitioning from a limited Special Operation to a larger and more adequate force capable of opposing the larger Ukrainian forces directed and supplied by NATO. This Russian transition includes calling up 300,000 reservists to replace active duty units stationed elsewhere in Russia. These better trained troops will be heading to Ukraine over the next three months.
Hours after the Kerch Bridge truck-bomb blast, Putin named General Sergei Surovikin overall commander for Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, three waves of massive rocket attacks hit 202 targets in Ukraine. These were precision hits on transportation, power, and communications infrastructure and intelligence and air defenses. According to MacGregor, 80 percent of Ukraine’s air and missile defenses were destroyed. The Ukrainians claimed to have shot down 27 percent of the rockets, but Ukrainian President Zelensky was immediately in contact with NATO for help. An emergency NATO meeting was held in Brussels to address the problem. The Russian missile assault is continuing at about 100 rockets per day.
In Brussels, it was proposed to replace Ukrainian Air Defense capabilities with two relatively new systems—the Norwegian-American System and the German IRIS-T system. The German infrared intercept system first appeared in 2005, but advanced technology is available in the 2021 update. The IRIS-T system appears to be truck-mounted for volleys of eight missiles. According to DW (German News), Germany has agreed to supply the Ukrainians with four of them by early 2023. One of these has already arrived in southern Ukraine. This raises some questions. Will the IRIS-T systems be manned by Ukrainians or Germans? How quickly can these systems be coordinated and put in place? How vulnerable will they be to Russian interdiction coming into Ukraine?
Former Marine intelligence officer and United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter and Col. MacGregor have addressed the current media discussion about nuclear weapons being used. This was originally driven by a series of remarks from Ukrainian President Zelensky on the possibility of preventive strikes against Russia. Russian military doctrine is not to use nuclear weapons unless attacked by nuclear weapons or the survivability of the Russian Federation is at stake. The Russians have the largest nuclear force in the world with 6,300 missiles, followed closely by the U.S. with 5,800. The U.S. has a capability for low-yield (5 KT or less) weapons, but Russian doctrine is to use precision non-nuclear weapons instead. But if attacked by nuclear weapons, their strategy is total retaliation against all enemy installations in whatever country. This is the same as the old MAD (mutually assured destruction) philosophy. This would probably come from land, submarine, or air-launched missiles. The degree of automation in this response is scary. Both Ritter and Macgregor are convinced that both sides know the calamity of nuclear war and intend to avoid it, although some retired U.S. Army generals have publicly declared the benefits of low-yield nuclear options. However, all nuclear weapons have blast, heat, and radiation effects. War is extremely difficult to control. War is prone to escalation, acts of desperation, revenge, accident, and fatal negligence. The biggest Naval explosion of World War II was the U.S. ammunition ship Mount Hood in the Pacific in November 1944. This may have been caused by negligent handling of gunpowder.
Moreover, few rational Americans would want Ukraine’s President Zelensky to determine the escalation to nuclear war.
The sabotage of the two Nordstream Pipelines is still in the news. The Russians claim that one of the two Nordstream 2 lines is still working and only needs some startup work. They also believe the other three Nordstream 1 are 2 lines could be repaired within a few months. So far, Germany has not granted them permission to do either. There is also a German plan to inspect and determine the cause and culprit of the sabotage explosions. The inspection team would include Sweden and Denmark, but not Russia. However, Sweden has now shunned taking part. Few informed Europeans believe Russia blew up their own pipeline. Finland, which was asking to become part of NATO has now begun to back away. The Finns might feel some embarrassment that NATO members were probably responsible for the pipeline sabotage, but they may also be weighing Russia’s recent two-day rocket and missile volleys that scored 202 precise rocket and missile hits on Ukrainian infrastructure and air defense targets. Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, and Italy are also beginning to back away from NATO and the European Union. France is also balking at NATO war planning that might go nuclear.
Although the United States seems to be the primary driver of using the Ukraine War to destabilize and weaken Russia, Col. MacGregor rightly points out that America is not prepared for war. The Biden Administration and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are destabilizing and weakening our Armed Forces with Critical Race Theory, self-evident nonsense about gender-ideology, and chasing white supremacists. The latter is really a purge of conservatives from the military. Recruiting, retention, unity, and military preparedness and readiness are all going badly. Quality and motivation are in significant decline. Modern warfare requires the brightest, best trained, and most motivated personnel. Complicated weapon systems are just junk without highly capable, well-trained, and loyal and motivated personnel. The Biden Administration is turning what was the most formidable military the world to a politicized woke shadow incapable of defending American liberty but corrupt enough to enforce internal tyranny.
The Russians will probably stick mostly to air and rocket attacks until hard ground, snow, and ice replace the fall mud season. However, according to Greek-British intelligence writer and legal scholar Alexander Mercouris, who gives a daily video briefing on Ukraine, there is ground action going on near Kherson in Kherson oblast and Bakhmut in Donetsk oblast. About 25 tanks supported by Ukrainian infantry were driven back by the Russians yesterday, and Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut are holding on under a hail of Russian artillery. President Zelensky called the situation “Most Difficult.”
Energy is the most critical necessity. Fuel, heat, electricity, food, and winter cold may determine the future of Ukraine and the governments of much of Europe beginning in late October and early November. Meanwhile the UK government is already under extreme economic stress.
Extensive NATO and Ukrainian propaganda makes it seem like Ukraine is winning, and Putin may fall in Russia, but many of the facts on the ground strongly contradict this propaganda. The public is not likely to get much of the truth watching or listening to ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, PBS, and NPR or reading the Washington Post, New York Times, and liberal magazines like The Atlantic. Only a few dare to cover the truth on Fox. Congress is spending money wildly on supporting Ukraine in an already dangerous inflationary situation without daring to investigate the full scope of the propagandized narrative just before an election. Only a few conservatives dare speak of a more complex narrative and its wrongs and dangers.
Former President Trump has rightly called for negotiations. He seems aware of the complexities of Ukraine and the massive political distortions of the popular war narrative. Getting rid of the radicalized Democrat majority in Congress is an important first step to peace and security, but the eyes of many Republicans must also be opened, and they must experience a renewal of American courage, principles, and devotion to truth.