Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Moscow Isn’t Building Domestic Rail Infrastructure for Either East-West or North-South Corridors

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 13 – Despite the Russian government’s claims that it is on track to open east-west and north-south corridors that will change international geo-economics to Russia’s advantage, in fact, Moscow has failed to build the infrastructure within its own borders to support these corridors.

            And that failure, Igor Leonidov argues today in a commentary for, also has serious consequences for Russia’s domestic economic and political development as a whole and especially for relations among the regions and between them and the center (

            Officials told a recent meeting of the Trade-Industrial Chamber of the Russian Federation that long-planned railways intended to connect Rostov, Stavropol, Kalmykia and the Lower Volga will not be built anytime soon and that a shipping route between Taganrog and Kerch will not be developed either.

            That will mean, Leonidov says, that Russia will continue to lose out to others in the carrying of Asian and Central Asian cargo to Europe and will be unable to support the development of ties with Russian-occupied Crimea regardless of whether the much-ballyhooed bridge to the Ukrainian peninsula is ever built or not.

            Igor Burakov, head of the Investment Agency of Rostov Oblast, told the meeting that many of the plans for these railways had first surfaced in the 1950s and have been put off “already six times,” something that means few businesses and even fewer foreign governments are prepared to count on Russia’s ever building them.

            One consequence of this is that Asian and Caucasian countries are already choosing to send their cargo via other routes bypassing Russia, something that cost Moscow last year alone at least 250 million US dollars.  In the future, given that Russia is unlikely to build any such lines soon, that figure will grow, all of Moscow’s bombast notwithstanding.

            The likelihood that no such train routes will be constructed in Russia anytime soon not only means that Moscow has de facto ceded victory to other countries in the trade wars, Leonidov says. But the lack of such arteries is leading to “social-economic stagnation of many regions, separate them one from another, and make their links with ‘the center’ and with the external world more difficult.”

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