Putin’s Second Reference To The North-South Transport Corridor In A Week Is Significant
That megaproject is clearly on his mind, as it should be since it forms the core of Russia, India, and Iran’s joint efforts to create a third pole of influence for breaking through the bi-multipolar impasse of global affairs.
“Putin Reaffirmed That The North-South Transport Corridor Is Among Russia’s Top Priorities” during a meeting that he held with the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects on 15 December, after which he brought that megaproject up again exactly one week later on 22 December. His second reference to the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC), which finally received the attention that it deserves from Western media, came during his impromptu press conference that evening.
The Russian leader said that “Our priority for 2023 will be the development of infrastructure. I do not think I need to list all the projects, we have a lot: the Eastern Operating Domain project, the North-South corridor, and other infrastructure projects across the country”. It’s significant that he brought up the NSTC twice in the span of a single week since this shows important President Putin assesses that megaproject as being for his country’s grand strategic interests.
For those readers who might not be aware, the NSTC became Russia’s alternative valve from Western sanctions pressure after India revived that previously moribund corridor in order to preemptively avert the scenario of its strategic partner becoming disproportionately dependent on China. That unexpected development accelerated India’s rise as a globally significant Great Power across the course of the past year, which in turn revolutionized International Relations by midwifing tripolarity.
It's beyond the scope of the present piece to dive deep into those strategic dynamics, but intrepid readers can refer to the insight shared in the preceding hyperlinks above to learn more about this if they’re interested. Returning to the focus of this analysis, there should be no doubt that President Putin shares the aforementioned assessment of the NSTC’s grand strategic significance for Russia, hence why he brought it up twice in just seven days.
That megaproject is clearly on his mind, as it should be since it forms the core of Russia, India, and Iran’s joint efforts to create a third pole of influence for breaking through the bi-multipolar impasse of global affairs characterized by the Sino-American superpower duopoly’s disproportionate influence. It’s important to also note that the other megaproject that he mentioned last week was the Eastern Operating Domain (EOD), which refers to modernizing the Baikal-Amur and Trans-Siberian mainlines.
As its name implies, it’s an East-West corridor that complements the NSTC’s eponymous North-South focus. The EOD isn’t part of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) since it only connects to the Pacific Ocean, not the People’s Republic, and Beijing’s envisaged Eurasian Land Bridge (ELB) is no longer viable for all intents and purposes considering the West’s sanctions against Russia. This insight leads to the conclusion that modernizing those mainlines might also be intended to boost trade with India.
To explain, President Putin and Prime Minister Modi jointly unveiled the Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC) when the Russian leader hosted his Indian counterpart as his guest of honor at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in September 2019. COVID abruptly froze their ambitious connectivity plans, but India’s redoubling of its strategic partnership with Russia since the start of the latter’s special operation in February is reviving the VCMC just like it revived the NSTC.
Russia’s plans to invest in the EOD predate this year’s dramatic developments but were nevertheless still driven by the unstated desire to diversify its regional economic partners with a view towards preemptively averting disproportionate dependence on China. Considering this, and recalling Russia’s recently reported request for India to scale its exports by a whopping five times as well as last week’s India-Russia business forum, it can therefore be concluded that the EOD is complementary to the NSTC.
Upon both of these megaprojects’ full completion, it’ll be much easier for Russia and India to expand their bilateral trade after easing the hitherto complicated logistics involved. Entrepreneurs will then have the choice of mainland connectivity via the NSTC or maritime connectivity across the VCMC and thenceforth across the EOD depending on whatever it is that they specialize in. The strategic economic outcome is that their energy-driven explosion of trade this year will finally diversify into the real sector.
That’s mutually beneficial for self-evident reasons as well as unstated ones connected to their complementary geopolitical balancing acts at this pivotal moment in the global systemic transition. Just like new partners such as Azerbaijan, the Central Asian Republics, and Iran can participate in Russian-Indian trade across the NSTC, so too can those in ASEAN and South Asia do the same across the VCMC-EOD, thus leading to the creation of entirely new economic axes with time.
President Putin is known for his grand strategic ambitions so it therefore shouldn’t be surprising that he’s thinking so much about comprehensively expanding connectivity with India these days via those two complementary megaprojects, which explains why he brought up the NSTC twice in a week. He obviously appreciates just how game-changing these developments can be in terms of empowering Russia and India to reshape the world order, hence why they’re literally now his top priorities for 2023.