Did Russia Build A Trap For Its Black Sea Fleet?

The Crimea bridge – the bridge that links Russia proper to Crimea has been bombed, and part of the road has collapsed. As the photographs show, the part that has collapsed is away from the central span through which ships and submarines would pass from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.

In 2016, I wrote about Russia and its Black Sea Fleet and a reason why Russia was bombing ISIS in Syria. The motivation in part was, I wrote, because the northern part of the Black Sea freezes in winter. This affects Russia’s ability to get its Black Sea Fleet out into the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

If the Black Sea freezes, then the Sea of Azov to its northwest definitely freezes. Now that the Crimea Bridge has been bombed, I ask myself a question. If part of the bridge is now in the sea, does the collapse imperil the passage of the Black Sea Fleet from the Sea of Azov? And if it doesn’t, then does the bridge, or rather the big blocks of material of which the bridge is built, become a weak point or trap in some future conflict that can so easily be bombed to block the route?

The Black Sea Fleet has its official primary headquarters and facilities in Sevastopol, which Russia annexed from Ukraine, along with the rest of Crimea, in 2014. The rest of the fleet’s facilities are based in locations on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

So two things. With global warming, does the Sea of Azov and this part of the Black Sea still freeze? And how shallow is the passage and how easy it is to actually block the passage of ships by obstructing the bridge?

The Kerch Strait Incident

The Strait of Kerch at its narrowest is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) wide with a maximum depth of 15 metres (49 ft).

The Crimea Bridge was opened to traffic in 2016. In November 2018, the Russian coast guard fired upon and captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels after they attempted to sail from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov through the strait to the port of Mariupol. 

To be clear, the Ukranian vessels were entitled to pass from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The dispute was over seeking permissions, notifying whoever should be notified, etc. And of course, the reality of what happened depends on who you ask.

The point though is that during the incident, Russia placed a large a cargo ship under the bridge, blocking the route into the Sea of Azov.

If a large cargo ship can block the route, how much more could collapsed pillars of the bridge itself block the route? So it is a relevant question to ask whether the bridge that facilitates movement between Russia proper and Crimea could be a stone around the neck of the Black Sea fleet, that blocks its own entry to and from the Sea of Azov.

Winter Freezing

In a post from April of this year, researchers from Sofia University reported on winter freezingand stated

Black Sea freezing in winter is observed regularly in its northern parts and near the Kerch Strait. The reason for this is the relatively shallow northwestern shelf part and the river inflow of the three major European rivers Danube, Dnieper, and Dniester, as well as Don through the Azov Sea, carrying a large amount of fresh water to this part of the Black Sea. The global warming that has been observed in recent decades has made these episodes less intense; nevertheless, they exist and impact people who live n the area.

The aim of this study is to analyze the extent of sea-ice variability in the last 15 years, observed by satellite observations, and to describe the weather conditions favorable for freezing to occur. It is found that, in 2006, 2012 and 2017, sea ice extended unusually southward, which is related to the unusually cold winter and weather conditions in these years.

So winter freezing is a current problem for the Black Sea Fleet, And that ties it to this from report by Reuters from September 20, 2022, that Russia had moved its Black Sea submarine fleet to Novorossiysk on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, a port that does not freeze in winter.

The more I think of it, the more I think that the bridge is a huge potential self-inflicted liability for Russia.

The Next British Prime Minister

In a few minutes the next British Prime Minister will be announced. The election follows the ejection of Boris Johnson from the job for his unforced errors and disregard for the truth.

An unforced error: a mistake in play that is attributed to one’s own failure rather than to the skill or effort of one’s opponent.

The first unforced error was that on 28 August 2019, the Parliament of the United Kingdom was ordered to be prorogued by Queen Elizabeth II upon the advice of the Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson. Britain is a constitutional monarchy, meaning that the reigning monarch has little power, and ‘on the advice of’ is a particularly British way of saying the the prime minister ordered the Queen to prorogue Parliament.

A prorogation is the discontinuance of a session of Parliament without dissolving it. Johnson’s purpose in proroguing Parliament for an unusually extended period was to severely limit the time that the MPs in the House of Commons had to consider the Brexit Bill that was before it. 

Concerned citizens raised a legal challenge and the Supreme Court ruled that the prorogation was unlawful.

Had Johnson’s Government given even the slimmest of reasons for their action, then the Supreme Court would not have looked to the adequacy of the reason. But the Government gave no reason, and that allowed the court to conclude that the reason for such a lengthy discontinuance was simply to deny Parliament time to carry out its function, and that that was unlawful.

Owen Patterson MP
The second unforced error was to try to overturn the 30 day suspension of Owen Patterson MP after Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards of the House of Commons, found him guilty of breaching the paid advocacy rules.

In October 2021 the Commissioner found that Owen Paterson had breached the paid advocacy rules for making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency and four approaches to the Department for International Development in relation to Randox and seven approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Lynn’s Country Foods.

The Commissioner said Paterson had “repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, and that this has brought the house into disrepute” and that “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests”.

Acting on her report, The Commons Select Committee on Standards recommended that Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days. The Government decided they didn’t like that and voted to overturn the suspension. The uproar that followed resulted in Own Paterson resigning as an MP.

Malicious Slander
The third unforced error was to maliciously slander the Leader of the Opposition Labour Party in the House of Commons.

Munira Mirza is a British political advisor who was the Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit under prime minister Boris Johnson, until she resigned today, 3 February 2022. She resigned because, as she described in her resignation letter, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson knowingly and maliciously slandered the leader of the Opposition with a false claim about his supposed failings when he was Director of Public Prosecutions.

Christopher Pincher MP
The final straw for the members of his Cabinet was when he promoted Christopher Pincher MP, knowing that Mr Pincher was subject to an investigation over sexual assault, and then lying to Parliament saying he was not aware of the allegations and the investigation.

And I have not touched on Partygate and the breaches of the rules about meeting during COVID that his Government has laid down and which the population had followed, sometimes resulting in family members not being there to say goodbye to loved ones on their deathbed.