Red and Black:What happens when a bridge becomes a political symbol

Red and Black:What happens when a bridge becomes a political symbolWithout going into technical details, the bridge is a structure that connects the opposite sides. And it's also a part of the way that saves precious time for mankind and makes movement simplier, unites generations, cultures and civilizations. Potentially, nowadays Crimean bridge and the bridge over the Red Sea can both enter the history. What is in common between these two engineering structures? Why has such a public outcry been arisen around these bridges? And do they have a future?

Left coast, right coast...

To begin with, we recall that the official purpose of the construction of the Crimean Bridge is to link the two peninsulas, Kerch and Taman. The bridge is being announced, sponsored and directly risen by the aggressor country - the Russian Federation.

However, the process of constructing is slow, only by the end of 2015 the general contractor of the bridge building across the Kerch Strait was chosen - it was "Stroygazmontazh" of Arkady Rotenberg. That same Rotenberg who since the Soviet years was trained in the same judo section with Vladimir Putin, and in the 90s was a sparring partner for the future Russian President.
Red and Black:What happens when a bridge becomes a political symbol

It will be his company which will have the task to master at least 228.3 billion rubles (3.5 billion dollars), as defined by the Ministry of Transport as the estimates for the construction, connecting the mainland and the peninsula. Although, up to March 2014 Ukraine also was dreaming of Kerch bridge. Unfortunately, the Russian annexation of the Crimea smashed Ukrainian dreams, making the territory of Crimea internationally isolated. So, Russia had not another choice left but to develop the next billions of Putin's friends.

In its turn, at the beginning of April 2016 it became known that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are also going to build a bridge across the Red Sea, which will connect the two countries. According to the Saudi TV channel "Al Arabiya" after the commissioning of the bridge across the Red Sea, the time of delivery of goods from the Gulf in the Suez Canal zone – and then to Europe - will be significantly reduced.
Red and Black:What happens when a bridge becomes a political symbol

According to estimates of the Saudi side, the total value of the goods to be delivered to Egypt through the bridge, will be $ 200 billion a year. The idea of building a bridge, linking two major Arab countries, belongs to the former Saudi King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, who ruled between 1982 and 2005, but the project has not been started.

They spoke about the necessity of the bridge construction after Egyptian ferry tragedy in the Red Sea in 2006. Then the project cost was estimated at three billion US dollars.

Little historical facts

Interestingly enough, the idea of the Crimean bridge was in the air at the end of the 19th century, when the British Queen Victoria decided to build a direct rail route to India. For this purpose it was necessary to build Kerch bridge. But the project was so expensive that even the British had to abandon the idea. The next in turn after Queen Victoria, the Russian tzar Nicholas II was also thinking about the construction of the bridge. But his plans were violated the First World War. Another attempt at creating a bridge across the Kerch Strait had been taken by Germany during the Second World War. But the Germans did not have enough time for the implementation of this large-scale project.

They created a project, built a cableway for goods, started to build the first structures, took all building material and techniques. But in the end all the German troops were forced to leave the Kerch Peninsula. The rapid advance of the Soviet Army provoked the Germans to undermine the bridge framework that already could be seen over the Kerch Strait.
Red and Black:What happens when a bridge becomes a political symbol

Yet another step in Krymsky bridge constructing was undertaken by the Soviet government, or more precisely, by Stalin. On his orders, in 1944, in a fantastic record time (in just 150 days), the Kerch and Taman Peninsula were finally united by a railway bridge. But in the mad rush, a bridge was not well fixed, and as a result, in February 1945, at the time of a strong ice drift, 50 supports crolled. Since that time, no one has rebuilt it. Its function began to be carried out by the ferry.
Red and Black:What happens when a bridge becomes a political symbol

And now, on April 12 this year, the official website of the project said that on the site of the future Kerch bridge the first support was constructed.

It is designed for the bridge with the car route. The official number of the support is №173. In total, according to the project, they planned 595 pieces of support. To build such a large number of support poles, builders will need 5500 piles. In general, the bridge is designed as a car and a rail traffic.

Between Africa and Asia

As for the bridge across the Red Sea, only on the 10th of April, 2016 an agreement on its construction has been reached. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have become Parties to this agreement. This decision was made possible only with the signing of an agreement on the delimitation of the maritime boundary between these two countries. According to it, Saudi Arabia has regained control of the disputed islands such as Tiran and Sanafir, located in the Straits of Tiran. To be clear: since the 1950s the islands were taken by Egypt under control, and only today Saudi Arabia was able to return the islands under its jurisdiction.

Red and Black:What happens when a bridge becomes a political symbolThe bridge across the Red Sea will be built near the Straits of Tiran at the entrance to the Straits of Aqaba. The project of this construction has been discussed since 1988. In July 2011, the project was approved by the Egyptian government, but opposed by Israel and Jordan. Due to strained relations with the Saudis, these countries were afraid of losing access to the Indian Ocean.

In addition, the only route leading from Egypt to Saudi Arabia passes through Israeli territory. And in the northern part of the Gulf of Aqaba there is a large Israeli port, a popular Israeli resort of Eilat and the Israeli naval base. However, referring to the statement made by the Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on April 12, the media reported that the Egyptians and Israel, the Saudis and the United States have finally reached an agreement on the transfer - by the Egyptian government in favor of Saudi Arabia - of the jurisdiction over the disputed islands of Tiran and Sanafir.

So, what is common between the Crimean bridge and the bridge across the Red Sea?

Firstly, it is a historical fact. The drafts of these two bridges were waiting for their implementation for many generations. And now they can be implemented. And, although Kerch bridge forged ahead at the start, nobody knows which of then will be finished first.

Second, it is a unique fact. The complexity of the construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait makes this bridge really special. The very complexity lies in the fact that the bottom on this site is very unstable, the strength of storms is extremely high, and the break-up of ice is extremely dangerous. In addition, the length of the bridge is assumed to be 19 kilometers. This means that the Crimean bridge may become the longest not only in Russia but also in Europe. Let us note that the world's longest bridge over the water reservoir is considered to be the Chinese crossing over the Yellow Sea - Hangzhou Bay. Is started to function in 2009. Its total length is 36 kilometers. This is not only the biggest, but also the most beautiful bridge in the world. By the way, the bridge of Hangzhou Bay was built in 6 years’ time with the expenditures of 1.42 billion dollars. The bridge across the Red Sea will be 32 kilometers. This distance is 4 km shorter than the Hangzhou Bay Bridge, but almost twice as long as its Kerch brother.

Thirdly, it is financially expensive fact. According to the project documentation of the Crimean bridge, the estimated cost of construction - as for December 2015 - amounted to 211,851,575,730 rubles. In dollars this amount is equivalent to 3.5 billion. And this is not the limit. This amount may increase. The construction of a bridge across the Red Sea is also appreciated by 3-4 billion dollars. But this bridge is 13 km longer than Kerch bridge. Let us recall that the 36 km Hangzhou Bay Bridge was built only for 1.42 billion. Dollars. Why is the bridge, which is being building by the Russian company "Stroygazmontazh" is so expensive?

Maybe, it is – once again! - the notorious case of corruption?

Fourth, it is a fact of timing. The time of construction of both bridges is expected to be spend approximately equal. If we take into account that the Kerch bridge is almost 2 times shorter than the Tirana’s one, they hope to build it in 3 years (from 2015 to 2018), and the bridge across the Red Sea - in 7 years.

Fifth, it is a fact of importance and necessity. If one does not take into account the fact that the Crimea was annexed by Russia, and its territory is temporarily cut off from the international geography, the Kerch Bridge represents a direct land route from Europe to India and further on - to China. Naturally, this is a very significant economic and migratory argument in favor of the construction of this bridge. As for the bridge across the Red Sea, this structure is able to connect Africa and Asia.

It is also important that such a bridge will greatly facilitate and shorten the way of Muslim pilgrims who annually make a small pilgrimage to the holy places of Mecca and Medina. That is, both bridges are characterized by the scale of their usefulness.

Ambition and politics

There is one more fact that is difficult to define, but which raises a very interesting question. If both bridges have so many similarities, will they be called according to the same principle? The fact that the bridge across the Red Sea – according to the idea of the Egyptian president - will be named in honor of the King of Saudi Arabia - Salman Bridge. In such a case, will the Crimean bridge be named after the saint "Russian Emperor" Volodya Putin?
Red and Black:What happens when a bridge becomes a political symbol

At least, Reuters reporters already call this project only with the name PUTIN'S BRIDGE. The Brits write that railroad bridge across the Kerch Strait will be completed later than it is planned. The trains will go over it not earlier tnat the end of 2019, the year after the first cars. But the fact that the bridge is likely to be finished – is sure the journalist Pavel Kazarin: "Kerch bridge is like the Olympics in Sochi: not just an infrastructure, but a real imperial symbol.

Its construction is bound to continue, because it is not about logistics, but about the proof of the power. In the framework of the imperial approach, such facilities are measured not by budget logic, but by the greatness of the State. " And in this Kerch bridge is similar to the entire history of the annexation of the Crimea. No business - only private affairs.

Whatever the situation, the construction of these facilities will last for many years. And a lot can change in this time span. In Egypt, for example, the mass protests started on the 16th of April - against the transfer of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir under the jurisdiction of Saudi Arabia. And the construction of Kerch bridge is greatly complicated by the factor of Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula. For example, experts in maritime law has recently offered to Kiev three ways to stop the construction of the Crimean bridge in accordance with international law.

On Monday, April 18, 2016 it was reported in the Information Center for Human Rights: "The first mechanism is the creation of ad hoc ["in this case"] Tribunal, the second is an appeal to the International Tribunal for Sea Law in Hamburg, and the third mechanism is an appeal to the United Nations’ International court, which sits in The Hague."

It turns out, the final construction of these bridges can be prevented not only by natural disasters, but by political ones.

On the other hand, the construction of Kerch bridge allows the Russians at least a two-year stretch of propagandistic euphoria of the "construction of the century", which "will be awaited in each house of the thriving Federation, empathizing from the bottom of their hearts for the separated by the Strait residents of the Crimea."

When suddenly in 2018 it will turn out that the bridge is not ready to be used, the extended deadlines will be offered, the budget will be corrected for inflation, and "eating out of State funds" will continue. But in this case one can always blame the junta, the third force in disrupting the timing, the fifth column, or any foreign cargo ship, damaging the support.

Yana Ischenko, especially for "Vector News"

Translated by Maria Kryzhanovska

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