Me Versus ChatGPT

In October last year, after the attack on the Crimea Bridge, I wrote an article about the military vulnerability of the Crimea bridge that links the Black Sea to the Sea Of Azov.

I’ll post the content of the article here, but following up on a conversation I had today, I decided to ask ChatGPT for its analysis, and here is what it wrote in answer to the prompt.

‘Describe the military vulnerability of the Crimea bridge that links the Black Sea to the Sea Of Azov’

The Crimea Bridge, also known as the Kerch Strait Bridge, is a road-and-rail bridge that connects the Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia. The bridge spans the Kerch Strait, linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

From a military perspective, the bridge could be considered a vulnerability as it is a single point of failure for ground transportation between Crimea and mainland Russia. If the bridge were to be damaged or destroyed, it would disrupt military and civilian traffic, potentially isolating Crimea from the rest of Russia.

Additionally, the bridge’s location in the Kerch Strait makes it vulnerable to naval attack. The bridge’s height clearance is not enough for larger naval vessels to pass under it, which limits the Russian Navy’s ability to access the Black Sea.

However, Russia has taken steps to defend the bridge, such as deploying anti-aircraft missiles and building a new military base nearby. Additionally, The Russia’s coast guard and the Navy are actively patrolling the area to protect the bridge from potential attack.

Overall, the bridge is an important infrastructure for Russia, but it also presents a potential military vulnerability.

Now the article I wrote on this topic

“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 freezing and 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 in to a 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.”

Article on NoMorePencils

My Thoughts On This

Apart from any other consideration, what I get from this is that it is worth asking ChatGPT these kind of questions because ChatGPT might just make a novel pairing of pieces of information and thereby provide an analysis that is useful for an human analyst.

Another thought is this. I am not a military analyst. It just seems to me that the bridge is a potential trap. If I was wildly wrong, ChatGPT would have made a contrary analysis – but it didn’t.