The Trans-Caspian Corridor – Next stop Ukraine?December 5, 2015
There is an inherent problem with taking actions that frame a nation as truculent, belligerent, unpredictable and by extension untrustworthy – that problem being that any relationship that is necessary with such a nation is purely transactional in nature, and conducted with the minimum amount of goodwill due to a strong undercurrent of competitor/adversarial discord.
“If needs must”, or “only if it can’t be avoided” policy decisions are made – and policy decisions are usually fairly long term in their nature – unless they quickly prove to be poor and counterproductive decisions.
Trust and predictability take a long time to build with others – but only moments to break when all is said and done. This is indeed true of the current Kremlin occupants, the “collective Putin” and the regime change that has seen Russia witness a move from “managed democracy” to authoritarianism – a clear regime change has taken place, despite the people involved remaining (more or less) the same.
Indeed as the “collective Putin” has shrunk in number, whilst institutional cronyism has insured the best and brightest get nowhere near the top, increasingly occurring and prickly domestic issues are receiving poor and untimely decisions that further compound problems. Both blame and diversionary adventures are required, and this is clearly apparent in Kremlin domestic and foreign policy with the associated fairytale propaganda. Everybody is to blame except those that are to blame and make the decisions.
For those that are able, avoiding as much unnecessary contact as possible is wise – certainly for the moment as evermore retarded decisions are made. For those that saw it coming, avoidance options were set in motion prior to the current events.
Having blogged on 3rd October 2013, “I suppose we should now look toward socially engineered discontent in Crimea and other pro/ethnic Russian regions, via agent provocateur or subterfuge, during any time period of signing and ratification as a real policy option for the Kremlin. A few years of uncharted water lays ahead – agreements signed or not.” – thus pre EuroMaidan, that the Kremlin would start societal mischief in Crimea (albeit in no way foreseeing it going as far as illegal annexation), it will have been crystal clear to those people with far better minds and much greater intellect than the author of this blog, who saw similar writing upon The Kremlin walls too. Indeed that writing was starting to appear upon The Kremlin walls with the “Russia without Putin” protests of 2012 – perhaps before that for those with a trained eye.
As such, with the writing daubed upon the wall being read by some very clever Chinese and Central Asian people (and the Central Asians have long petitioned for logistics routes avoiding Russia since the collapse of the USSR), the Trans-Caspian route avoiding Russian territory when transporting Chinese goods to Europe that was set in motion some years back will indeed prove to be prudent. This is not to ignore a similar route avoiding Russian territory from Baku, Tibilisi and Kars to Europe (called the TRACECA) which is due for commissioning in 2016 when the final stretch of railway line is completed.
Whilst all international headlines were on Turkey’s downing of the Russian bomber, a logistics and transportation consortium quietly signed an agreement. The project founders are China’s Minsheng Logistics, Georgia’s Trans Caucasus Terminals (TCT), Kazakhstan’s KTZ Express (part of the Kazakhstan Railways), Azerbaijan’s Karvan Logistics and Caspian Shipping Company with Turkey the destination – and an apparent option for Ukraine to join then serving as a transportation link to central and northern Europe. China did make a formal invitation to Ukraine to do so in April 2015 – and Ukraine would be foolish not to take the opportunity after all.
All in all, none of this appears to be particularly good news for the Trans-Siberian railway – albeit welcome news to almost all Russian neighbours – particularly with it being a Chinese project that The Kremlin will therefore leave well alone.