Hale: The Russian bridge to Crimea is very provocative; it normalizes the idea that Crimea is part of Russia

PONARS Eurasia
03 Dec 2018

(CBC) For U.S. President Donald Trump, who is reportedly in a dark mood over the advancing Mueller investigation and fresh off a slew of Republican congressional losses in the midterm elections, a naval standoff between Russia and Ukraine comes at a particularly fraught moment in his presidency.

But for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, that makes this as good a time as any to see how far he can push Trump by asserting Russian supremacy in the disputed Sea of Azov.

Trump has cancelled his official one-on-one meeting with Putin scheduled for the G20, citing Russia's aggression on the Black Sea, but the Kremlin later said the leaders had a brief encounter at the summit on Friday. [...]

Prof. Henry Hale of George Washington University, who specializes in post-Soviet Eurasia, suspects the timing of Russia's aggression "is more related to the Ukrainian decision to send these ships there now." 

"But Russia always has an interest in testing U.S. resolve on these questions," he said.

"That [bridge] is very provocative," Hale said. "This is another way of physically connecting the Crimean Peninsula to Russia. The bridge gives the Russians an opportunity to further lay claim to it, to use the bridge to block Ukrainian ships and normalize the idea that Crimea is part of Russia."

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