Staunton, May 19 – Vladimir Putin is now thinking about building a canal that would directly connect the Caspian and Black Seas, a super project Stalin wanted to construct before World War II intervened. The new canal would replace the rapidly aging Volga-Don canal, link Russia into Chinese and Iranian plans, and allow for moving naval vessels between the two seas.
(For background on these efforts, see the current author’s article at jamestown.org/program/volga-don-canal-last-great-stalin-project-desperately-needs-updating-or-replacement/.)
In a new Svobodnaya pressa article, Moscow strategic analyst Aleksandr Sitnikov says that silting up of the Volga-Don canal has made it too shallow in summer months to handle most ships and that the new canal would represent both an economic and geopolitical breakthrough for Putin (svpressa.ru/economy/article/298813/ and svpressa.ru/society/article/292604/; cf. jamestown.org/program/moscow-plans-to-expand-canal-system-between-caspian-and-azov-seas/).
Sitnikov says that plans for the new canal suggest it would cost as much as 18 billion US dollars, but the canal, which already bears the name “Eurasia,” would cut the distance between the two seas from more than 1000 kilometers to 680 to 850 kilometers depending on the route chosen and thus reduce the time needed for passage through it.
Three factors have come together to lead Moscow to conclude that such a canal is not a pipe dream. First, it has had to move ships back and forth between the Caspian and the Black Seas to put pressure on Ukraine. Anything that would make that easier for the Russian side would be welcome (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/04/moscows-use-of-caspian-flotilla-against.html
Obviously, none of these canals iswgoing to come online anytime soon. But they may become less of a financial burden if Moscow approves the idea of using prisoners as workers on them, something the Kremlin has already done for the reconstruction and expansion of the BAM railway (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/04/moscow-thinking-about-using-prison.html).