By Paul Goble
In commenting on Vladimir Putin’s call for a fundamental shift in Russia’s transportation corridors from the west to the east and south, Mikhail Blinkin says that two of the most critical are the expansion of links between the Caspian and Azov seas and the opening of the corridor between Azerbaijan proper and Nakhichevan.
The first of these, the HSE expert on transportation policy says, will require the expansion of the Volga-Don canal; and the second will necessitate a political agreement between Baku and Yerevan over what has become the most contentious issue of their long-running dispute (ura.news/articles/1036284645).
But the fact that a Moscow expert has linked both projects to Putin’s program suggests that Moscow is likely to now be pressing ahead with its expanded waterways program to link the Caspian and the Black Sea (jamestown.org/program/russia-seeks-to-keep-water-transit-between-caspian-and-azov-seas-open-year-round/).
And it suggests that Russia will be increasingly ready to side with Azerbaijan against Armenia on the Zengezur corridor, something that could tip the balance between the two in favor of at least moving to open this transit link that will give Baku and behind it Turkey a major geopolitical victory in the south.
What Moscow will want in exchange is unclear, but it is entirely possible, especially given EU involvement in the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute that the Kremlin will seek to use its backing for the opening of the corridor with the continued presence of Russian troops in Qarabagh and along that corridor.