Toward a Eurasian Corridor

It will connect the Asian-Pacific Region with the Atlantic Ocean

By Mario Lettieri, Former Undersecretary of Economics of Romano Prodi's Government, and Paolo Raimondi, Economist, Editorialist of the Italian Economic Daily ItaliaOggi. ItaliaOggi, March 19, 2014

While the winds of a new Cold war and the risks of dangerous conflicts around the Ukraine question are growing, important personalities of the economic and scientific sectors of Russia propose instead a peaceful vision of infrastructure, economic and cultural development of the entire Eurasian continent.

On March 11th in Moscow Dr. Vladimir Yakunin, president of the Russian Railways, with the decisive support of the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), proposed a project of large infrastructure investments known as “Trans-Eurasian Belt Razvitie.” This Russian word means development.

The authors have been among the few invited foreign guests to the event. After the scientific validation by the RAS, the project is now ready to be presented and discussed in different institutions of the State Administration.

It is a mega project, which during the years could require investments for several hundred billions of euro, to connect with modern infrastructure the Russian cost at the Pacific Ocean with the European countries till the Atlantic Ocean. As part of the corridor-belt, besides the railway and road transportations, there are also continental connections with gas, oil, water, electricity and communication pipelines.

The project also foresees future direct connections with China, which is already working on similar policies of Eurasian development through the realization of modern Silk Roads, and with North America, through the realization of railway lines which, crossing the Bering Strait, could connect Russia and Asia with Alaska.

Clearly such strategic vision of the project goes well beyond the realization of transit corridors. In fact it suggests also a development in depth of a belt of 200-300 km along the entire corridor with the construction of new cities and new productive centers. According to Yakunin such a project could create at least 10-15 new types of industries which will be based on completely new technologies.

It could appear a visionary idea. But since some time Russia is trying to define a new strategy which is not only related to economy but which should mobilize and unite the social, cultural and spiritual energies of the entire population around a Big Project.

This could be also the way to face the demographic question in a country where in the last 20 years the level of population and of fertility dramatically diminished. Such a project could also favour a progressive urbanization of the territories of Siberia and Far East which are almost completely uninhabited.

Indeed, in the past Russia got mobilized herself around big projects which at the beginning could seem non-realizable. The construction more than hundred years ago of the 9.300 km long Trans-Siberian Railway, the electrification plan of the Soviet Union and the space program are few of the most known examples.

Yakunin reported that long term investments for the modernization of the Trans-Siberian line and of the Baikal-Amur railway have been recently approved. The global crisis which still characterizes the beginning of the XXI century could become an important stimulus for a new agreement among the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United States, providing a winning answer to the de-industrialization policy which affects all these three regions.

The utopia of the post-industrial society failed. It could be overcome with a new and modern industrialization. In a world dominated by exchanges of goods and technologies, the Eurasian development belt should therefore reconcile the interests of the three large economic systems, building up at the same time a guarantee of geopolitical security for all.

In this delicate moment in the relations among the G8 countries, it could appear bizarre to speak about such projects, but we believe that today it is urgent to imagine new phases of global development and new geopolitical arrangements with a high degree of integration.

Translated from Italian.

ItaliaOggi is a leading Italian economic daily with a large national circulation.

Articles of similar content were published in other dailies like La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno (on March 21st), the main paper of the Southern Italian regions, L’Opinione (on March 20th) and in a dozen of online newspapers, press agencies and  independent webpages throughout Italy.