The West finally realized just how game changing the North South Transport Corridor really is
by Andrew Korybko on 28 Dec 2022 0 Comment

It’s surprising how much time Bloomberg’s writers invested in correcting their audience’s perceptions about the North-South Transport Corridor, which they should sincerely be commended for doing. The only constructive critiques that can be levelled against their report is that it should have been published much earlier and that it predictably ends on the politically self-interested note of implying that the US’ secondary sanctions threats could impede this project. Apart from that, it’s a rare masterpiece from the Mainstream Media.


The unexpected revival of the NSTC


Bloomberg published an extensively detailed report on Wednesday about how “Russia and Iran Are Building a Trade Route That Defies Sanctions”, which informs their readers of the game-changing geostrategic significance of the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) between those two and India. The US-led West’s Golden Billion ignored this Eurasian economic corridor over the past decade since it failed to meet the lofty expectations held of it for a variety of reasons, but everything changed this year.


That de facto New Cold War bloc’s sanctions against Russia in response to its special operation, which it commenced in order to defend the integrity of its national security red lines in Ukraine after NATO crossed them there, turned the NSTC into Moscow’s only viable international logistics corridor. This in turn breathed life into that previously moribund project and subsequently accelerated the grand strategic convergence between its primary Russian, Iranian, and Indian participants.


Systemic Consequences


The consequence of that happening is that those three have been able to advance their shared goal of creating a third pole of influence aimed at breaking through the bi-multipolar impasse of International Relations defined by the Sino-American superpower duopoly’s dominance of global affairs. The NSTC is the physical core of their efforts in this respect, which thus makes it a truly game-changing project that’s revolutionizing the world order by facilitating its tripolar evolution ahead of its final form of multiplexity.


The Golden Billion was in denial about these interconnected geostrategic developments for the past ten months, especially since it was their own anti-Russian sanctions that catalyzed this same process that’s further eroding their declining unipolar hegemony. Their perception managers sought to manipulate the global masses into falsely thinking that Russia was isolated, Iran was on the brink of collapse, and India dumped its decades-long special and privileged strategic partner in order to please the US.


Correcting Perceptions


The reality is that Russia remains connected to the global economy via the NSTC, Iran’s “Democratic Security” policies have effectively restored stability in the face of the US’ latest Hybrid War of Terror against it, and India actually doubled down on its ties with Moscow in full defiance of Washington. These observations are objectively existing and easily verifiable, which is why the US-led West’s Mainstream Media (MSM) finally came clean with the truth through Bloomberg’s extensively detailed report.


It’s surprising how much time its writers invested in correcting their audience’s perceptions, which they should sincerely be commended for doing. The only constructive critiques that can be levelled against their report is that it should have been published much earlier and that it predictably ends on the politically self-interested note of implying that the US’ secondary sanctions threats could impede this project. Apart from that, it’s a rare masterpiece from MSM. Here are some key excerpts illustrating that:


Key Excerpts from Bloomberg’s Masterpiece


“Russia and Iran are building a new transcontinental trade route stretching from the eastern edge of Europe to the Indian Ocean, a 3,000–kilometer (1,860–mile) passage that’s beyond the reach of any foreign intervention…The goal is to shield commercial links from Western interference and build new ones with the giant and fast–growing economies of Asia. ‘This is about establishing sanctions–proof supply chains all the way through,’ says Maria Shagina. …


The emerging trade corridor would allow Russia and Iran to shave thousands of kilometers off existing routes. At its northern end is the Sea of Azov, which is bracketed by the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine’s southeastern coast—including the Russian–occupied port of Mariupol—and the mouth of the River Don… From there river, sea and rail networks extend to Iranian hubs on the Caspian Sea and ultimately the Indian Ocean. Putin has flagged the importance of that end of the corridor, as well. …


Shagina estimates Russia and Iran are investing as much as $25 billion in the inland trade corridor, helping to facilitate the flow of goods the West wants to stop… Ships sailing the Don and Volga rivers have traditionally traded energy and agricultural commodities—Iran is the third-largest importer of Russian grain—but the range is set to widen. The two countries have announced a raft of new business deals that cover goods including turbines, polymers, medical supplies and automotive parts. …


‘With European transport networks getting closed off, they’re focused on developing alternative trade corridors which support Russia’s turn to the East,’ says Nikolay Kozhanov, a Gulf expert at Qatar University who served as a Kremlin diplomat in Tehran from 2006 to 2009. ‘You can impose controls over sea routes, but land routes are difficult to watch. It’s almost impossible to track them all.’ There are plenty of obstacles, and both Russia and Iran are spending heavily to overcome them.


Russia is planning to invest $1 billion to improve navigability across the Azov, into the Don River and across the canal linked to the Volga… The Don-Volga Canal is a 101-kilometer stretch of manmade passages and natural reservoirs linking the two rivers at their closest point… The shallowness of some parts of the waterway restricts the size of vessels shipping products such as Russian grain to about 3,000 tons of capacity. Modernizing the canal could allow ships twice that size to pass through.


Russia is finalizing rules that would give ships from Iran right of passage along inland waterways on the Volga and Don rivers, according to Iran’s Maritime News Agency. Ship movement data compiled by Bloomberg already show at least a dozen Iranian vessels, some operated by the US–sanctioned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines Group, plying waters between the country’s Caspian coast and key Volga River ports.


The Tehran–based IRISL made a $10 million investment in a port along the Volga, the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency reported last month. The aim is to almost double cargo capacity at the Solyanka Port in the Russian city of Astrakhan, to 85,000 tons a month. Inside its own borders, Iran is pouring money into terminals where cargo can be rolled off ships and onto railroads that crisscross the country from the Caspian to the Persian Gulf. …


Trade delegations are shuttling between Iran and Russia with growing frequency—and trade is rising, too. Officially it surged by almost half through August this year. The annual figure likely will soon exceed $5 billion. There’s a ‘clear path’ to reaching $40 billion once a free–trade agreement is in place, Sergey Katyrin, the head of Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told a conference in Tehran last month. …


Iranian officials say they’re fully focused on what they call ‘the Eastern axis’—scrapping any plans to revive economic ties with Europe and instead pursuing a slew of trade and energy agreements with Russia, China and Central Asian nations. Largely beneath the radar of Western governments, a concerted effort has been under way for years to knit together that whole Eurasian territory… For both Russia and Iran, India is a crucial node in the networks they’re trying to build. …


Trade flows could increase if Iran manages to connect the unfinished and much–delayed Chabahar Port complex on the Indian Ocean—a project that India has invested in—to its long–distance train network. Chabahar has so far been exempt from US sanctions, but it may draw fresh scrutiny from Washington… Success or failure… will hinge on whether other countries, from India to the Middle East… agree to [comply with US sanctions] or opt to defy the pressure.”


The Next Phase of the US’ Pressure Campaign


These key excerpts from Bloomberg’s surprisingly balanced report strongly suggest that the Golden Billion has decided to maximize their audience’s awareness of the NSTC as part of their de facto New Cold War bloc’s next phase of pressure against Russia, Iran, and perhaps also eventually India too. This geo-strategically game-changing Eurasian corridor will most likely figure into forthcoming sanctions discussions owing to its indispensable role in revolutionizing International Relations.


It’s in the US’ interests to sabotage the NSTC, which it expects will stall the grand strategic convergence between its primary Russian, Iranian, and Indian participants and thus complicate their joint efforts to create a third pole of influence for breaking through the bi-multipolar impasse of global affairs. The problem, however, is that this declining unipolar hegemon seriously lacks the influence nowadays to advance that objective other than threatening secondary sanctions against those who use the NSTC.


Neutralizing the Damocles’ Sword of Secondary Sanctions


This multipolar megaproject is of the highest strategic importance for each of its primary participants due to their shared desire to leverage it for the purpose of revolutionizing International Relations in the direction of their objective long-term interests, hence why such efforts are unlikely to deter them. Those Indian companies that pioneer the economic dimension of their globally significant Great Power’s Eurasian balancing act via the NSTC can simply ensure that they have no Western business interests.


That would therefore neutralize the Damocles’ sword of the Golden Billion’s secondary sanctions since the lack of any trade between those companies and that de facto New Cold War bloc would render those unilateral restrictions meaningless. The same can be said for those Indian banks that will facilitate financial operations across this route with Russia and Iran. As long as they have no Western business interests, they’re shielded from the threat of secondary sanctions, which thus become purely symbolic.


Clarifying India’s Grand Strategic Intentions


To be absolutely clear, India doesn’t revel in spiting the West since it would prefer to cooperate with it in mutually beneficial ways, but it also won’t unilaterally concede on its objective national interests either and especially not under the threat of illegal sanctions imposed outside the UNSC. While some American policymakers might conclude that this makes India a latent geopolitical challenge to their declining unipolar hegemony, the fact is that Indian-driven tripolarity via the NSTC isn’t zero-sum.


The global systemic transition predates this year’s dramatic events but was unprecedentedly accelerated by them, so much so that the processes that were unleashed have become irreversible by this point. This is especially so after Indian Prime Minister Modi declared his country’s intention to lead the Global South throughout the course of its G20 chairmanship across the coming year, which Russia’s Sherpa to that bloc fully endorsed by describing their partner as “the major voice of the Global South”.


Arguments for pragmatically recalibrating American strategy


That being the case, it makes the most sense for the US to manage these processes to the best of its ability so as to creatively leverage them against its Chinese systemic competitor in order to gain an edge over it amidst their ongoing discussions over a New Détente. It already seems like America is at the very least countenancing this approach as evidenced by the White House Press Secretary’s praise of Prime Minister Modi for his role in bringing the G20 together in publishing their joint statement last month.


This doesn’t mean that all of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies’ (“deep state”) support this pragmatic reaction to the irreversible developments of the past year since ideologically driven hardliners predictably still remain under the delusion that they can change things. Nevertheless, it does indeed suggest that some influential forces within them are seriously considering how their interests could be advanced through these means.


Some simple policy suggestions for the US


With this in mind, the most optimal approach would be for the US not to threaten India with secondary sanctions for its role in the geo-strategically game-changing NSTC in order to continue accelerating the tripolar processes that complicate China’s grand strategic goals much more than their own. It also shouldn’t consider selling India out to China to sweeten the deal for a Sino-American New Détente either since Delhi’s kingmaker status in the New Cold War is imperative for managing Beijing’s rise. 


That said, there’s of course no way to confidently discern the strategic calculations influencing American policymakers at this pivotal moment in the global systemic transition. It might ultimately turn out that they decide to double down on pressuring India over the NSTC, sell its security out to China, and team up with the People’s Republic (even if only temporarily) in a desperate attempt to restore the bi-multipolar system that both superpowers have a self-interested stake in preserving.


Concluding Thoughts


Whatever ends up happening, it’s becoming obvious that the NSTC will figure more prominently in the calculations at play as suggested by Bloomberg surprisingly correcting its audience’s perceptions about this corridor in their extensively detailed report about it. This unexpected narrative development will predictably lead to more global attention being given to that corridor, but instead of putting pressure on its participants to curtail their activities, it might actually inspire more countries to utilize it.


Courtesy Andrew Korybko 

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