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In Move With Profound Security Implications, China May Help Russia Deepen And Widen Volga-Don Canal – OpEd

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Last week, officials of China’s CCCC Dredging Group met in Astrakhan with representatives of the Russian enterprise responsible for the management of the Volga-Don canal to discuss possible Chinese participation in dredging operations there to widen and deepen that waterway (rosmorport.ru/filials/asf_news_main/44253/).

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That may seem like a routine economic measure, but in fact it has profound national security implications because Moscow currently uses the Volga-Don canal to shift naval vessels back and forth between the Caspian Sea to the east and the Sea of Azov and Black Sea to the West (jamestown.org/program/russian-caspian-flotillas-capacity-to-project-force-threatens-littoral-states-and-ukraine/jamestown.org/program/moscow-shifts-flotilla-from-caspian-to-azov-sea-giving-it-a-new-offensive-capability/ and jamestown.org/program/moscow-moving-15-warships-from-caspian-sea-to-waters-off-ukraine/).

Because of siltification and low water levels, Moscow has sometimes encountered delays in moving naval vessels through this waterway; and it has even discussed the possibility of digging a new canal between the Caspian and the Sea of Azov (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/10/shippers-hope-to-make-volga-don-canal.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/04/moscows-use-of-caspian-flotilla-against.html).

But that would be prohibitively expensive and take many years to complete, and so the Russian government has concluded that deepening and widening the Volga-Don canal is a better choice given how dependent Russian forces now are on moving Russian naval vessels from the Caspian to threaten Ukraine.

Russia lacks the capacity to do this work itself and so is turning to China, but if Beijing agrees to help in this way, it will be providing Russia with military assistance that the West has warned it against doing, even though a casual glance at this possibility does not immediately suggest the security dimensions involved.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

3 thoughts on “In Move With Profound Security Implications, China May Help Russia Deepen And Widen Volga-Don Canal – OpEd

  • March 24, 2022 at 5:54 pm
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    I just hope china doesn’t involve itself in this manner. We need to keep relations with China as friendly as possible, and vice versa for China with US. I fear a world in which the two greatest superpowers become locked in another Cold War or worse. We must make the Chinese understand that helping a despot on a mission that seems too Draconian to even belong in this era, is not the message they want to send to the rest of the world. I understand that china may feel as though it owes a dept to Russia for the help Russia has given in the past, but I would argue it owes the Russian people and not Vlad. If the Chinese government will not listen to reason, I think an appeal should be made to the Chinese people. I doubt very seriously that the vast majority of Chinese citizens want anything to do with the unjustifiable war. That Putin is directly responsible for, nor do they want to have the national shame that would surely come from helping that monster kill innocent men women and children. So that he can save his failing political career and boost the borders of Russia. China has nothing to gain from this, it’s time they realize that the US could be their greatest ally. That together we could usher in an age of peace and prosperity if we could only learn to see each other as essential to the survival of not only our own countries, but to the entire planet.

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    • March 25, 2022 at 4:32 pm
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      What is America willing to offer either China or Russia that would be worth breaking their alliance with one another ?

      Reply
  • March 25, 2022 at 4:28 pm
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    A quick bit of research into some relevant facts shows that the area between the Volga and the Don has been an important trading link since ancient times. The Ottomans attempted a canal there and so did Peter the Great. The Soviets finally succeeded and it was a great achievement. Any attempt by America or any other power to destroy, degrade or delay the development of Eurasian infrastructure is not only ignorant and short sighted it is absolutely evil. Like Saturn eating his sons for fear that they would grow up to be stronger than him.
    Of course such a waterway could be used for military traffic, any mode of transportation can. In case you have forgotten, or never bothered to learn, the isthmus of Panama also has a canal, an even more massive achievement. It was constructed by the US Army and has huge military and civilian importance. Military and civilian transport go together, they always have and always will. Transport and trade is vital for human life, development and flourishing. That’s the case in the Americas and also in Eurasia. If America sets itself against that then it has set itself against humanity and civilization.

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