The Caspian Sea is becoming a new center of geopolitical confrontation, and not only the coastal powers want to participate in it. But, for example, China and Turkey do not have direct access to the Caspian Sea.
Countries are fighting for possession of vast natural resources, primarily, of course, hydrocarbons. Suffice it to say that recently Azerbaijan announced the discovery of natural gas and gas condensate reserves at the new Shafak-Asiman field.
Caspian: inflate and blow
How much Russian “partners” are interested in the Caspian Sea is evidenced by the huge resonance caused by the latest environmental disasters in the region. So, in December on the Dagestan coast (near Makhachkala, Derbent and Izberbash), more than 300 dead Red Book seals were found.
In March, in the Agrakhan Gulf, Dagestan ecologists found massive sea birds, including diving and cormorants. Then – another disaster, and again on the Dagestan coast, where dead curly pelicans were found at the mouth of the Stary Bakhtemir canal in the Kizlyar region.
Moreover, if, for example, power lines, which were allegedly stumbled by birds in flight, were called the “culprit” of the death of pelicans, then the death of seals was associated with the pollution of the Caspian Sea.
Each of these environmental disasters quickly acquired a great foreign resonance. For example, dozens of foreign publications wrote about the mass death of the Caspian seal last year, even from countries that are very “exotic” for the region: France, India, Lebanon, Australia. The same thing happened in the case of the death of the pelicans.
It would seem, why should Australian or Indian publications be interested in the Red Book animals in the Caspian Sea? It is unlikely that someone would have reacted in the same way to an ecological disaster somewhere in the African Tanganyika or the Canadian Great Slave Lake.
The point is that the Caspian region is attracting more and more international attention. And any more or less loud news concerning the Caspian (and especially with ecological coloration) instantly swells to the scale of an international problem.
Turkey wants to “bypass” Russia
One of the most influential Turkish publications, Anadolu, indicates that the transport importance of the Caspian Sea will only grow in the coming decades. After all, it is a “natural” competitor to the Suez Canal, which recently experienced the largest collapse in history.
Of course, Turkey sees itself as one of the key players in transport projects in the Caspian. Official Ankara has long been promoting the “Middle Corridor” megaproject, which would connect China, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. The project should become an alternative to the Southern Corridor, in which Iran intends to play the first violin, and to the Northern Corridor, where, as the name implies, Russia should be the main party.
As pointed out by Anadolu, the cost of the transport project can reach $ 8 trillion. Naturally, not only Turkey intends to invest, but also other countries. The Turkish side, for example, will undertake the financing of one of the objects that should become part of the “Middle Corridor” – the “Istanbul” shipping canal.
It will be, as conceived by the Turkish president Recep Erdogan, an understudy of the Bosphorus Canal, which now separates Europe from Asia. Naturally, the passage through “Istanbul” will be paid, which in the long term will cover the investments in its construction (as Anadolu reminds, Panama and Egypt operate).
Another Turkish publication, reputed to be the mouthpiece of the conservatives, Yeni Safak, recalls the statements of Asian leaders about the future of the Caspian Sea. And this is not only Erdogan, but also, for example, the first president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev, which declared about “the revival of the Great Silk Road … and the Turanian corridor, which should become the safest and shortest trade route connecting Europe and Asia.”
Anadolu points out that the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan was the only “problem” section on the way of the “Middle Corridor”. For a long time, it remained in a de facto transport blockade due to the cessation of traffic on the Nakhichevan railway linking Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran. That is why Turkey and Azerbaijan so persistently promoted the idea of unblocking transport communications in the South Caucasus after last year’s Karabakh war, Anadolu quotes the president of the International Turkish Academy, professor Darkhan Kydyrali…
China goes to the South Caucasus
The analytical publication Modern Diplomacy predicts that, following Turkey, China will demonstrate an extraordinary activation in the “Caspian” direction. Moreover, their interests coincide. At the same time, as the newspaper notes, so far in geo-economic terms, China is inferior to Turkey, which has a long and dense presence in the South Caucasus.
So, in the South Caucasus there is still only one Chinese industrial park – this is the free industrial zone “Hualing Kutaisi”. While, for example, there are at least eight Chinese industrial parks in North Africa and West Asia, and six in Central Asia, which underlines the long-term geo-economic importance of these two regions.
This gives the Chinese side an opportunity to build relations from scratch, says Modern Diplomacy. Suffice it to say that in 2015, China established relations of friendly cooperation with Azerbaijan, and in 2019 the Azerbaijani President paid a visit Ilham Aliyev to the international summit “Belts and Roads”, at which many bilateral projects were announced.