Monday, May 3, 2021

What's Sultan Erdoğan Up To Now? "‘Canal War’ Breaking Out in Greater Caspian Region"

As noted over the years, this guy is going to make ISIS look like a bunch of poseurs in the caliphate/sultanate restoration business.

From the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor, April 29:

Turkey’s plan to build a canal bypassing the Bosporus Strait and potentially upsetting the Montreux Convention (see EDM, February 9) along with Russia’s movement of warships from the Caspian to the Sea of Azov via the Volga–Don Canal in order to threaten Ukraine (see EDM, April 13) highlight the ways in which artificial waterways can play a significant geopolitical role—possibly as dramatically as the late-19th century “Railway Wars” did in the Middle East. Those two developments have attracted widespread international attention in and of themselves. But a broader trend, likely to play an increasing role in the geopolitics of the greater Caspian region, has yet to garner notice. That is the emergence of competition among existing and planned canal systems from the Caspian to the Black Sea, on the one hand, and to the Indian Ocean, on the other.

At present, the only waterway linking the Caspian Sea and the world ocean is the Volga–Don Canal, an aging structure with numerous locks and a low capacity because of the shallowness of many parts of its course and because it is open for navigation for only part of the year (see EDM, August 6, 2020). However, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs has begun pushing for the canal to be widened, deepened, and provided with more water so that these limitations can be lifted. Such a project would require the investment of enormous resources, on the scale of billions or even tens of billions of dollars (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, April 16; Vestnik, April 22).

Despite its costs, this project has significant support in the Russian government because it would make it possible to export even more raw materials to foreign markets (Yandex Zen, April 11). Two versions of the plan for expanding the Volga–Don Canal (and rechristening it as the “Eurasian Canal”) are now being considered. Both would be expensive and take several years to realize. The first option would cost an estimated $9.2 billion and allow for the transit of ships as large as 10,000 tons; the second would cost approximately $22 billion but then could carry ships as large as 26,000 tons. The first variant could purportedly pay for itself in 11 years; the second in 25.

Even as these discussions are proceeding, however, Moscow is involved in two other competing projects: a new canal across the North Caucasus, from the Caspian to the Black Sea, and another new canal system south, from the Caspian through Iran to the Indian Ocean....