BTK reinforces multi-vector between West and East
2017 November 01 ( Wednesday ) 22:38:46
The opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway (BTK) means the strengthening of the multi-vectored routes of communication between the West and the East. It fully corresponds to the strategy of the West and China, which are the main ultimate beneficiaries of the trans-Caspian direction of the Great Silk Road.
Western strategy. Although BTK has a ten-year history of formation since the signing of the agreement in 2007 and commissioning in 2017, its origins were laid in 1993 on the initiative of the European Union. Then the TRACECA program was adopted, which envisages a strategy for the development of the transport corridor Europe-Caucasus-Central Asia, which was poorly developed in the period of the USSR.
Chinese strategy. Chinese support BTK received much later - in 2012, when the People's Republic of China adopted a program for the development and diversification of the railway routes "One belt - one way." The "Economic belt of the Silk Road" project seeks to create three trans-Eurasian economic corridors: the northern (China-Central Asia-Russia-Europe), the central (China-Central and West Asia-Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean) and the southern (China-South- East Asia - South Asia - Indian Ocean).
Both strategies can be said to be synchronized with both ends of multi-vector rail routes, which excludes the contradictions in the development and management of the West-East transport corridor in the range from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean.
Russia. An important geopolitical transit component of the West China project Russia, if, during the period of the formation of the idea of multi-vector transport routes, was jealous of the activity of international players in the Caucasus and Central Asia after the collapse of the USSR (which was caused most of all by the imperial inertia of the backbone center in the USSR), then in the future The issue was increasingly guided by Realpolitik.
Russia's official position on the TRACECA program, announced back in 2000, is that this program is designed to create transport communications "bypassing Russia", as well as to strengthen "centrifugal tendencies among the CIS countries." At the same time, in the analytical documents of the CIS, the TRACECA program is assessed as one of the main international transport corridors of the CIS. (Turaeva M.O. Transportation and Infrastructure Projects in Eurasia // The World of Change: Magazine, M., 2016. - No. 1. - P. 127-137.).
Over the past 10 years, Russia has been more involved in developing and building up its own railway potential in various directions, where the strategic role is played by Transib and BAM, which directly connect Europe and the entire Far East.
This role is prominently presented in the "Strategy for the Development of Railway Transport until 2030" of the Russian Federation, which was adopted by the government in June 2008. In particular, the task is to realize the transit potential of Russia on the basis of integrating rail transport into international transport systems. This program document focuses on developing and strengthening the capacity of its own infrastructure and there is no mention of BTK and the trans-Caspian route, let alone its negative assessment. In general, it can be noted that in recent times, at an official level, alternative routes, and it would be more correct to say, parallel routes, including BTK, are not considered by Russia as "hostile". And this is understandable for the reason that the BTK is incomparable with the BAM-Transsib tandem in terms of its prospective capacity of up to 18 million tons per year, the total capacity of which Russia plans to increase by more than 300 million tons of cargo per year.
The recent crisis in Russia and the narrowing of financial opportunities make the Kremlin even more focused on the Strategy and fulfill the tasks set in it, based on the availability of real resources and opportunities. In this regard, in the course of implementation of the Strategy, adjustments were made to identify priorities, mobilize and increase the efficiency of the use of financial resources.
It should also be noted that the implementation of such a West-Caspian railway route as North-South (Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran) to some extent neutralizes some minor losses to Russia from the BTK's entry into service, and also creates additional preferences in the form of using this route for Turkish direction. In this regard, the Strategy includes the task of developing the North Caucasian railway in order to increase its throughput capacity.