Why Rebels/Russia Is Unlikely To Pursue a Land Bridge to Crimea

The rebels’ reported offensive in the Mariupol area has revived speculation that Russia may want to establish a land bridge to Crimea. I think the chances of such a development are very slim (less than 5% in next year), and here is why.
Russia doesn’t need an actual land corridor if it builds a bridge across the Kerch Strait to Crimea.
The bridge which would span 17 km and would cost up to $7 bn.In comparison, the rebels would have to march 400 km (see map below), seizing southern parts of Ukraine’s Zaporozhye and Kherson regions to gain land access to Crimea.
I think costs of seizing a land access to Crimea would exceed the one-time costs of building a bridge across the Kerch Strait even if we do not factor in costs from additional sanctions that West would impose over such a development.  If the example of Crimea offers any clue, then it is that subsidies to the newly-conquered regions alone would cost Russian budget, which is already strained by the economic crisis, a fortune. As important, the best moment – when authorities in Kiev were in disarray and Ukrainian army was impotent in spring – has come and gone, so it would be more difficult to drive the Ukrainian forces back for as many as 400 km.
UPDATE: As to why the current escalation of hostilities in E. Ukraine is taking place, I suggest recalling Lavrov's January 12 statement  on negotiations over Ukraine crisis: the main main sticking point remains Ukraine's lack of progress in implementing constitutional reform.

Land Bridge


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