The culmination of the Donbas battle is near. For the first time in this war, the pendulum starts swinging in Russia’s favor. By summer’s end, it’s possible that Moscow will fully secure its land bridge to Crimea. This would have catastrophic consequences.
The Russian land bridge would enable Putin’s control of the Black Sea coast from Crimea all the way to Georgia. The Ukrainian military must destroy the bridge. But it can only do so if the Biden administration shows itself ready to finally and properly stand up to Russia.
Why are things turning in the Donbas? The West is still far too slow in getting heavy weapons to the frontline. Ukrainians continue to fight ferociously, to be sure; but they remain overmatched in military capability.
Ukrainians slow down the invaders, yet Russia keeps making progress, killing as many as 100 Ukrainians every day. Industry is decimated; critical infrastructure is being torn up. Refugees are on the run. Moscow now occupies 20% of Ukraine.
Russia’s overarching aim remains the same: the destruction of Ukraine. We’re seeing that blocking the country’s capacity to export vital agricultural and industrial goods is but one element of the Russian strategy.
A fifth of Ukrainian territory occupied should remind us that in 2008, Russia occupied 20% of Georgian territory. After that, it settled into a ceasefire and has maintained its occupation ever since.
In Ukraine, Russia adjusted its war objective from the destruction of the capital to the obliteration and occupation of the Donbas. But we shouldn’t jump to conclusions: Kyiv is not off the hook. Since it lost the first battle of Kyiv, Moscow has been building up with its proxy in Belarus. From the border to Lviv is fewer than five hours by tank.
The point is, Russian President Vladimir Putin may be proving wilier and more capable of adapting than some had originally imagined.
In the south, Russia’s aim is to establish a land bridge that connects the illegally annexed and occupied Crimean peninsula to the mainland. With the land bridge, Moscow can steadily resupply forces and launch attacks into western Ukraine. This land bridge through the Donbas will also enable Russia to finally take Odessa.
Odessa is the last key port that in Russian hands will cut Ukraine from Black Sea access and crucial export capacities. Odessa is also key to completing the land bridge to Transnistria and Moldova. The result would be Novorossiya — “New Russia.” This is part of the imperial vision that comes from Putin’s personal ideologist, Aleksandr Dugin.
Up until now, the Kremlin has suffered myriad setbacks. But Putin may be regrouping. Western sanctions are starting to bite. Moscow is signaling its willingness to negotiate over the Donbas. This is rubbish. Its negotiating position will not be acceptable to either Ukraine or the West.
Right now Kyiv needs Multi Launch Rocket Systems with long-range rockets. But the Pentagon is only sending four! President Joe Biden’s recent op-ed in The New York Times reflected his ongoing mix of commitment, hesitancy and temporizing.
What can be done to prevent Russia from securing the Crimean land bridge? A start would be the destruction of the Kerch Strait bridge connecting Russia with Crimea.
This, Europe’s longest bridge, was constructed after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Putin drove a truck across the bridge to open it in 2018. Ukrainians have struggled to bring the bridge down.
To tackle this — and to sever the strategically important land bridge — Ukrainians need long-range rockets and far greater air power supplied by drones and fighter jets. Either MiG-29s and Su-24s or old American F-14s and F-16s will do.
Of course, this involves risk. No one wants a wider war. However, the West’s hesitancy has the unintended consequence of prolonging a conflict that is already more than costly and dangerous enough.
Iulia Sabina-Joja teaches at Georgetown and George Washington University, runs the Middle East Institute’s Black Sea program in Washington, DC, and is co-host of the AEI podcast “Eastern Front.”
Soruce : https://nypost.com/2022/06/03/we-must-stop-russias-land-bridge-to-crimea-now/