Staunton, December 24 – A Russian commentator suggests that efforts Moscow and Tehran are taking steps that will undercut the development of the Trans-Caspian Transport Route intended to carry goods between China and Europe that the West has encouraged because it bypasses both Russia and Iran.
In Kaspissky vestnik, Vlad Kondratyev argues that what Moscow and Iran have been doing in developing rail traffic that does not require intermodal transitions as does the Trans-Caspian route will keep the volume of trade on the Trans-Caspian route lower than its boosters suggest (casp-geo.ru/naskolko-zhiznesposoben-transkaspijskij-transportnyj-koridor/).
And what he does not say but clearly intends his readers to take away is that the West’s efforts to bypass Russia in this may end by having a result Western governments and especially Washington will like even less: Iran could become a player, prompting the US to have to choose between a route through Russia or one through Iran.
Given current policies, it is fairly obvious which the US at least would prefer.
Kondratyev picks up on a report in another Russian portal, Chinalogist.ru, last month detailing conversations among officials from Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Turkey which led to an agreement to open two rail corridors from China to Europe via Iran (chinalogist.ru/news/otkryvaetsya-eshche-odin-put-zhd-tranzita-kitay-evropa-cherez-iran-17468).
The first of these corridors would pass from Turkmenistan’s Serkhetyak to Iran’s Serakhs; the second from Turkmenistan’s Akyayla into northern Iran. Neither has yet been built, but such rail lines would have the effect of linking the countries of Central Asia not to the US but to China and to a lesser extent Iran.
Meanwhile, Kondratyev says, China is continuing to focus on using rail lines through Russia to the Polish port of Gdansk. Indeed, Beijing sources say that will become a regular route by next month and will reduce transit time to twelve days or even less (chinalogist.ru/news/konkurent-gamburga-i-duysburga-pervyy-konteynernyy-poezd-pribyl-iz-sianya-v-gdansk-17479).
These developments, the Russian analyst argues, means that the prospects of the Trans-Caspian route remain “cloudy,” as do the geopolitical calculations behind them. China’s interest in trading with Europe is likely to benefit Russia and Iran long before it has a similar impact on the countries of Central Asia and the South Caucasus.