All but overlooked by Western mainstream media in their focus on the recent flare-up of military tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the simmering conflict over the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is the announcement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, following talks with his Iranian counterpart, that work will now begin on a long-discussed North-South Transportation Corridor along the Caspian Sea. Significant is the fact that Azerbaijan has also agreed to participate in the project. If so, it suggests that Russian diplomacy and economic infrastructure development have again trumped the Washington urge for wars everywhere to hold their grip on an eroding global superpower hegemony.
On April 7, at a meeting in the Azeri capital of Baku just hours after Azerbaijan pulled back from a full-scale military assault over Nagorno-Karabakh–an attack being openly urged by the increasingly desperate Turksh President Erdogan–Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told assembled media that Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan had agreed to begin talks on implementation of the North-South Transportation Corridor. Beside Lavrov at the announcement stood the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mamamdyarov.
Lavrov declared, “We discussed issues that deal with the material sphere of cooperation. We agreed that our relevant agencies will start detailing practical aspects of implementing the project of ‘North-South’ transport corridor along the western Caspian coast. This envisages work with participation of the transport ministries that should consider technical and financial parameters of the project. This also envisages cooperation between customs and consular services, and we have agreed on that today.”
Completing the Golden Triangle
With the agreement between Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan, a huge step has been taken to secure the greatest economic space in the world–The Eurasian Heartland. This is the space that the British Godfather of geopolitics, Sir Halford Mackinder warned his life-long was the only major threat to the continued hegemony of the British Empire, later the American heir, the American Century.
The direct, modern transportation corridor, known since initial talks in 2002 as the North-South Transportation Corridor, will ultimately link India and Iran and Azerbaijan to the countries and markets of the Eurasian Economic Union which includes not only Armenia, but Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus.
The North South Transport Corridor from India through Iran and Azerbaijan along the Caspian to Moscow and beyond will transform the economic space of Eurasia.
The transport corridor will transform the economies of the entire Eurasia from Russia to fellow Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) country India. The members of the increasingly strategically important SCO are China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. This year India and Pakistan formally accede to full SCO membership, and it is expected that Iran, currently an official Observer, will be offered full membership later this year now that sanctions have been lifted. China President Xi Jinping announced his support for Iranian full membership during his important January, 2016 talks in Teheran where the two agreed formal Iranian participation in the One Belt, One Road New Economic Silk Road project being spearheaded across Eurasia by China’s Xi. Now with the Teheran-Moscow Corridor Iran closes the Golden Triangle, Beijing-Teheran-Moscow, a major economic and geopolitical advance.
Economics of the transport corridor
Completion of the North-South Transport Corridor will significantly transform the economic space of all Eurasia.
The Corridor will be a modern ship, rail, and road route to move freight between India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and on–potentially if the EU states ever become sensible and drop support for Ukraine’s war government and drop EU sanctions on Russia–to the ailing economies of the European Union. The new corridor will connect some of the world’s largest cities including Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran on to Iran’s Caspian Port of Bandar Anzali and from there on to Russia’s Caspian port Astrakhan that is at the mouth of the great Volga River.
In 2014 dry run tests of two routes were conducted. The first was Mumbai to Baku via Iran’s port at the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a major chokepoint for Persian Gulf oil and LNG gas flows. The second was Mumbai to Russia’s port at Astrakhan via Bandar Abbas, Tehran and Iran’s Caspian port at Bandar Anzali. The aim of the study was to identify and address key bottlenecks. Significantly, the study showed that India-Russia transport costs were reduced by “$2,500 per 15 tons of cargo.”
A study conducted by the Indian Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations found the route is, “30% cheaper and 40% shorter than the current traditional route.” That current route runs from Mumbai through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal across the Mediterranean and Gibralter on through the English Channel on to St. Petersburg and Moscow. A look at the map reveals how strategically vulnerable that existing route is to possible NATO or US interdiction.
The US coup d’état in February, 2014 in Ukraine, installing the US State Department’s hand-picked gaggle of “pro-Washington” corrupt oligarchs and neo-Nazis to disrupt relations between Russia and the EU, temporarily forced the North-South Transport Corridor plans on to a back-burner. Now, as the reality of the China Eurasian One Belt, One Road Great Project takes on concrete form, the addition of the Iran-Azerbaijan-Russia North-South Transport Corridor creates an integral economic, political and militarily coherent space that may soon auger in what future historians will call the Eurasian Century, as the American Century and its post-1944 world hegemony crumbles much as the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century AD. Again, the East creates while all the West seems able to do with success is to destroy.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”