Silk road from China to Europe difficult to construct without Russia



Russia will be a key member of a major infrastructure project of the silk road that connects Asia and Europe. As a result, the parts of the world should be established large-scale trade-economic cooperation. The initiator of the “artery” — China — in recent years unsuccessfully built a route bypassing Russia — through Ukraine and Azerbaijan. However, these attempts seem to fall on a number of political and geographical reasons. What are the expected benefits Moscow, the realization of the idea of Beijing to find out RT.

The Russian President may take part in the summit of the silk road, which will take place on may 14-15 this year in Beijing. As reported by the press, the Russian Ambassador in China Andrei Denisov, Vladimir Putin has received an invitation from President XI Jinping.

Vladimir Putin presumably will participate in the forum during his working visit in Beijing. The summit will be an integral part of the strategy of “One belt and one road” promulgated, XI Jinping in 2013, including the establishment of “Economic zone of the silk road and Maritime silk road of XXI century” the Main goal of the project is the creation of transport and logistics system connecting China with the countries of the Eurasian continent. According to experts, the Russian leader will be the main guest at the may summit in Beijing.

Today the majority of freight is delivered by sea from China, it is relatively inexpensive, but long, anyway, before starting the Northern sea route. For example, to the ports of Saint-Petersburg sea container ship is about 30-40 days.

In recent years Beijing has been negotiating with a number of States — potential participants in the project, feeling the most promising routes for overland trade routes. While land transport accounts for only 6% of shipments from China, and most of it is transported via the TRANS-Siberian railway.

Despite the fact that Russia and China are strategic partners, Beijing actively testing the alternative trading vehicle tracks running in bypass Russia. This tactic due to the desire to diversify routes of transportation.

China hopes to stimulate the development of its Western regions, which will have direct access to the markets of transit countries.

Schema path

The first and most risky route was to go through Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. However, these plans of the Chinese leadership were unhappy with the expansion of the “Islamic state”* that spread in 2014 outside Syria. It is not excluded that Beijing will return in the future to the establishment of a middle East branch of the silk road, but in the region must first be suppressed terrorist activity.

Another thread on the trade route “TRANS-Caspian international transport route” (TITR, also called “silk wind”) — was to push through Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

The main disadvantage of this route is the presence of two marine crossings across the Caspian and the Black sea. To optimize travel build a railway Baku — Tbilisi — Kars, which will eliminate the need to ferry across the Black sea. But even one crossing the Caspian sea can be very difficult passage of goods. By the most hopeful estimates, the route of the “silk wind” may take about two weeks, but any storm in the Caspian sea is able to stretch out the time.

The third way is also bypassing Russia, through Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine.

In January last year, the trial train was sent from the port of the Black sea (Odessa region) in China. Deputy Minister of infrastructure Volodymyr Omelian estimated duration of the route in 10-12 days (the official even admitted to the prospect of reduced transit time of up to 9 days), but the train was going to China for 15 days, crossing on the ferries across the Caspian and the Black sea. And this despite the fact that the trial train left the Black sea without cargo for more rapid passage of border procedures.

Another Ukrainian line-up sent by the Ukrainian authorities in China in early 2016, is simply lost on the territory of Kazakhstan. According to media reports, the train was detained in Karaganda region due to non-payment of transit fees.

Consequently, the most successful was the “Russian” route: Kazakhstan — Russia — Belarus — Poland.

A train loaded with Chinese goods, passed on and arrived in London on 18 January 2017, breaking a 12 thousand kilometers for 18 days without any overlap. The success of this trend was quite predictable. On the route there are no sea crossings or mountain ranges, optimal from the point of view of military-political risks — the state for which he is not subject to political cataclysms. Another advantage is the membership of Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus in the Eurasian economic Union: common customs rules for easier transit of goods across borders.

“Alternative routes are not very profitable, in this case, the big question remains: what items will go in the trains back to China? It is necessary for economic loading of highways. In this sense, the Russian direction may seem more attractive, for example, we can talk about the supply of raw materials to China,” — said in an interview with RT chief researcher of the Institute of Far Eastern studies, Vladimir Petrovsky.

However, in the trade-economic cooperation of Russia and China, there are problems. Even with all the advantages of this cooperation, many issues still need solutions — and not least from the Russian side. In particular, experts note the shortcomings in the Russian transport infrastructure. Built during the reign of Nicholas II the TRANS-Siberian railway is still a major transport hub connecting the Eastern and Western parts of Russia. The highway to the stop downloaded internal operations and in its current state to withstand the increase in transit flow from China simply can not.

“Russia needs to do a serious “homework”, in particular, need to be upgraded and BAM and Transsib, now there are problems with safety and speed of cargo movement, — said Petrovsky. Another important aspect is the readiness of the Russian side to participate in the project mates in the legislative field. As an example: the project “Eurasian highway”, which must pass through the Orenburg oblast and the Urals to the West. China has already built its part of the road, and on the Russian side there is no movement because of the imperfection of the law on public-private partnership for more than 10 years. It is a question of strategic planning, much more needs to be done.”

A similar view is shared by the Director of the coordinating center of the International Congress of Industrialists and entrepreneurs “Economic zone of silk road” Vladimir remyga.

“The average forward speed of trains on the TRANS-Siberian railway — 11.7 km/h, the speed of the cyclist. The highway is overloaded, there are many areas where movement is inhibited”, — the expert said in an interview with RT.

The TRANS-Siberian railway needs investment and modernisation, but Beijing has to bid to another route already constructed high-speed railway to the border with Kazakhstan, this year will be commissioned in the second part, going through Kazakhstan territory.

However, despite all the difficulties, Russia and China are interested in cooperation — we are talking not only about the transit line, and on the comprehensive combination of project silk road and the Eurasian economic Union (EEU).

For Beijing cooperation with the EEU means the output of the silk road to a new level. And Moscow, for its part, is interested in investing in its infrastructure.

“Russia expects investment in the development of Russian infrastructure, including transport systems, is the basis of the economic component of the silk road. But to get this investment will have on a competitive basis, will need intense joint work, — said Vladimir Petrovsky. Connection to the silk road is a chance for Russia to improve infrastructure, including transport”.

A single philosophy

Besides, Moscow hopes to engage China in its integration projects, which are not inferior to the Chinese plan of “One belt and one road”.


In may 2015 the Russian President and the Chinese President signed a joint statement on cooperation in the framework of the Eurasian economic Union and the TRANS-Eurasian trade and infrastructure project of the economic belt of the silk road. As explained by the Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov, the purpose of pairing integration projects is “building a common economic space on the entire Eurasian continent.”

Moscow goes even further than the Chinese side, many integration projects of great magnitude.

As explained by Vladimir Putin in the fall of 2016 in an interview with RIA Novosti, in the future process of cooperation between the EEU and the silk road can be the basis for the formation of a Large Eurasian partnership, with the participation of the Shanghai cooperation organization and the Association of South-East Asia.

“This initiative (in joining the EEU and the silk road. — RT.) suggests new approaches to shaping the global economic order, this is its strength and philosophy. It differs markedly from the American projects, such as the TRANS-Pacific and Transatlantic partnerships, where there is one leader — the USA. And the projects of Moscow and Beijing based on the principles of equality, the underlying principle is mutual benefit of all participants. We can say that the EEU and the silk road one philosophy, and they can complement each other”, — said Vladimir remyga.

*”The Islamic state” is a terrorist organization banned in Russia.