An interesting story appeared on Russia’s state-sponsored ITAR-TASS newswire yesterday. It reported that Russia would attempt to build a bridge across the Kerch Strait in the Sea of Azov, giving it a land connection to its newly annexed territory in Crimea (which the whole world believes to be part of Ukraine).
The story begins this way:
Chinese companies will be first foreign investors in economy of the Russian Republic of Crimea after the peninsula’s reunification with Russia. A Chinese construction company and a private investment fund may be involved in construction of a transport corridor to Crimea across the Kerch Strait at the cost of $ 1.2-3 billion with some part of the project to be invested in yuan, Kommersant daily learnt.
There is great deal of fascinating information in this single paragraph:
(1) Russia can’t build this massive bridge itself, it needs to hire the Chinese.
(2) Russia thinks that hiring a Chinese contractor means that the contractor is “investing” in Russia.
(3) First the article says the Chinese “will be” involved then it says “may be.” In other words, who knows.
(4) ITAR-TASS can’t come up with this “story” itself, it relies on Kommersant to do so.
(5) Russia obviously thinks it needs this bridge, meaning that it doesn’t think it’s likely it will have a land corridor to Crimea through Ukraine.
It is, of course, totally laughable that Russia would think hiring a contractor constitutes investment by that contractor in Russia, and it’s a telling indicator of how desperate Russia is to find foreign investors of any kind. Russia saw unprecedented capital flight in the first quarter of this year, and more than $100 billion in capital losses are expected by year’s end. But this sort of neo-Soviet flight of ludicrous fancy is still surprising.
Putin has invested billions in upgrading the Russian army so it can conquer Russia’s neighbors, but he hasn’t developed Russian civil engineering to the point where Russians can build a major bridge like the one it needs over the Azov. Or alternatively, Russia is so desperate to court foreigners that it is going to deny Russian companies the chance to profit from the enterprise. Either way, a harbinger of doom for Russia.
And the only reason Russia would need a bridge like this would be if it believes it won’t be able to seize “Novorossiya” from Ukraine. If it can’t do so, that means it can’t deliver water and electricity to Crimea over land, which means that the residents of Crimea will be at the mercy of Ukraine for basic services for the foreseeable future. Any attempt by Russia to squeeze Ukraine on gas will be met with proportional retaliation against the “Russians” in Crimea.
The ITAR-TASS article is Putin’s Russia in microcosm. It neatly reflects all the fundamental weaknesses of this inherently failed state, now bent on a suicidal binge of aggression against its neighbors that has left it with the same status of international pariah held by such nations as Iran and Syria (nations of which Russia is the only significant friend).