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Control of Ukrainian canal is key to safety at nuclear power plant

May 31, 2023


After invading Ukraine in 2022, Russia quickly blew up a Ukrainian-constructed dam that blocked the water supply to the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula. The canal is of vital strategic importance to Moscow as it provides drinking water and contributes to irrigation systems in the area.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan argues that Ukraine has its own reasons to take back control of the canal.

Excerpted from Peter’s May 30 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

There’s a canal that runs from Kherson to the Crimean Peninsula and serves as the area’s sole irrigation water source. And with how dry the region is, this canal is critical to the Crimean Peninsula.

While an assault on Nova Kakhovka might not be in the cards for the Ukrainians, targeting the sluice gate regulating the canal’s flow might still be their priority. That’s because there’s more than just food production on the line. The Zaporizhzia nuclear power plant draws its coolant water from the Kakhova reservoir, and without that, some nuclear … issues could be on the agenda.

With the potential for a Zaporizhzia offensive, the strategic rationale behind targeting this canal is solid. Only time will tell if the Ukrainians capitalize on the opportunity to cut off the Russians and Crimea.

Everyone Peters I’m coming to you from home Got another episode of our Ukraine q&a series. Specifically, this relates to a forecast that I made back in the fall in the aftermath of the KEARSON offensive. The issue is that there is a canal that provides irrigation water that starts in the central parts of KEARSON province go south to the Crimean peninsula, and then is the sole source of irrigation water for the entire peninsula. The area is historically very dry. And while you might be able to grow a little bit of wheat there, in a normal year, everything else has to be irrigated and honestly the wheat can use it to now the sluice gate that controls the flows is on the south side of the Nieper River between the cities of Cova and Nova Cova. And it drains water from the Cova reservoir. So you know, it’s easy to remember all the names on this one.
What the Russians have been doing is running that canal full bore for most of the winter in order to fill up all of their downstream reservoirs in Crimea itself. Now all of those reservoirs combined are like a drop in the bucket compared to what can come out of the neighbor. And it’s not enough for irrigation. If the sluice gate is closed, it would be enough to supply drinking water to the populations of Crimea but none for irrigation at all. Now the Ukrainians are saying that until they take over and obika Koba Koba, that there’s really no conversation to be had about the canal, but we are probably nearing the point where that’s going to be relevant. If the Ukrainians were to do a direct assault on those cities across the river, that probably wouldn’t go all that well. Because the Russians have deep supply lines and Ukrainians would have to cross a river without a bridge. More likely, the Ukrainians gonna be operating further east where they’ll go Eastern river altogether, and go straight south from his upper needs the province. But there are reasons to think that the Ukrainians might prioritize hitting that sluice gate, even if they don’t intend to capture it. The single biggest one is because the power, the Zapper eats a nuclear power plant, that one that keeps getting in the news because of shelling draws all of its coolant water from the gokova Reservoir. And the Russians have been deliberately draining that reservoir as fast as they can faster than the river can refill it. Now, because there’s so little capacity in the Crimean system to hold water, they’re probably just dumping the water somewhere into the ocean. But I don’t have access to live feed satellite technology in a war zone. So I don’t exactly know where, but that’s probably happening somewhere, they wouldn’t be put into the fields because this is planting season, and that would prevent them from getting any food at all. Anyway, if that plant goes offline, it’s going to be a problem for any number of future Ukrainian operations, because it is the primary source of electricity for that entire area and the entirety of Ukrainian steel belt. But if the canal was taken offline, even temporarily, not only do you trigger a crisis in Crimea, because you know, there’s a food issue, you also trigger potentially to either meltdown crisis. There’s another reason to expect the Ukrainians to do this sooner rather than later, because we’re about to have Crimea cut off. If the Zapper needs offensive proceeds, basically going straight down for roughly the nuclear plant power plant towards the Severs off. The Ukrainians will be an easy range of every road and rail connection between Russia proper and the Crimean peninsula, and they’ll be able to cut them all off. You do that the same time you cut the canal. And this is an area that’s completely on its own two and a half million people and some of the best military units the Russians have. So the strategic rationale for this move remains very, very strong. The only question is how high up on the priority list is it for key F because they can’t just flip a switch they actually have to go in and do something doesn’t mean that they won’t just that there are other things competing for their attention right now. All right. That’s it for me. See you guys next time.

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