Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Moscow’s Use of Caspian Flotilla against Ukraine Increases Interest in New Canal between Caspian and Black Seas

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 11 – Moscow’s decision to move 15 warships from the Caspian to the Black Seas via the Volga-Don canal network, a route that requires them to go through more than a dozen locks (, is sparking renewed interest in the construction of a new and larger canal.

            Interest in such a canal has been simmering for some years because of the limits of the Volga-Don system, the desire of different regional players such as Kalmykia to play a bigger role, and hopes for using it to encourage China to use the Russian route for east-west trade (

            A new appreciation of the status of discussions about the canal argues that China would be the main “beneficiary” of the Eurasia Canal, as it is known, but obviously security considerations involving Russia’s navy will play an important role in Moscow’s decision about it (

            The Volga-Don canal system has a carrying capacity of only 16.5 million tons a year, and it cannot handle large ships because it is so shallow in many places. Today, its primary load is oil and oil products from the Caspian to Russia proper rather than to more distant markets. The new canal would be fundamentally different and more profitable.

            It would be designed to carry grain from Kazakhstan and containers from China and to involve Iran more closely into north-south trade with Russia. Technical studies have already been completed, and now the Kremlin must choose between two options if it is to go ahead with this project at all.

            The first would cost 9.2 billion US dollars and would carry ships of as much as 10,000 tons; the second would cost 22 billion dollars and carry ships as large as 26,000 tons. The first could pay for itself in 11 years; the second in 25. And while those prices may seem high, they can be covered by Russian funds without difficulty.

            Right now, the Dvina Club of Zen Yandex says, the chief opponents of the construction of the canal are the Americans and their agents of influence in Russia, yet another indication of just how valuable this canal would be because Russia’s primary opponent is so actively in opposition to it.

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