The New Silk (Rail)Road

An interesting article in Windows on Eurasia, analyzing how two enormous railroad projects – one going north-south between Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan, and a second backed by the West going east-west between Europe and Central Asia – may play an even larger role than oil in defining the geopolitics of Eurasia.  As the article notes:

“…Each of these projects will change the geopolitical position not only of their immediate participants but of many other countries as well, and the competition between the two is likely to have an even broader impact, possibly determining the rise and fall of the great powers in south-central Eurasia.

…The heads of the [Russian, Iranian and Azerbaijani ] national railroads agreed in Tehran last week to work out plans for the completion of a rail line linking Kazvin, Resht and Astara in Iran with Astara in Azerbaijan, thereby putting in place the final piece of the larger North-South network.

…Not only will the new route reduce by 800 km the overland route between Europe and the Indian Ocean and thus permit a dramatic increase in freight traffic up to 20 million tons a year, but it also will, as the Moscow paper underlined, entail significant “geopolitical and geo-economic consequences.”

The countries taking part in this project will be drawn closer together, with Russia, the largest and most powerful of those, gaining influence over both Azerbaijan and Iran – and over Europeans interested in shipping goods via this land route to southern Asia and the Far East.

…All these possible consequences from the North-South rail route are compounded by the possibility of the construction of an East-West one linking Western Europe with Central Asia., according to Moscow analysts. 

…One possible route would pass through Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, while another would follow a more southerly along what was once the Great Silk Route bypassing in whole or in part the Russian Federation and tying even Afghanistan to the West.

Moscow would have few problems with the first route. In fact, it might be a primary beneficiary. But the Russian government is very much against the second, seeing it as an effort to freeze Moscow out of Central Asia and to provide the launch pad for expanded American and West European influence…”

This entry was posted on Friday, April 4th, 2008 at 4:32 pm and is filed under Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Ukraine.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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