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Trends in Greater Eurasian Transit Connectivity: Beyond BRI & EEU

Alicia J. Campi

Throughout Greater Inner Eurasia, geographic and geopolitical barriers historically have prevented integration, and long-standing transportation gaps or bottlenecks within the Eurasian “super” continent have persisted. Across the contemporary region, various development strategies that take the form of investments in sectors such as energy and transportation infrastructure construction, among others, seemingly have proliferated and accelerated in response to or in competition with China’s BRI and Russia’s EEU; all of these strategies seek to fill obvious gaps in security dialogue mechanisms, reduce  isolation, and maximize and accelerate continental economic integration trends. Today’s dynamism, particularly in the transit sector, is full of possibilities for the nations that are impacted by or are driving these developments.

However, the connectivity schemes conceptualized by states other than China or Russia should not be evaluated as BRI or EEU spinoffs, but should be understood as addressing much more localized needs and interests. The parochial nature of BRI and EEU both maximizes affected countries’ commitments to them and also maintains elements of historical antagonisms and trust deficits that temper their potentials for success.

The World Pensions Council (WPC) in 2017 estimated that, throughout the Eurasian continental region excluding China, rectification of the “infrastructure gap” to spur economic growth requires up to $900 billion of infrastructure investment per year over the next decade, mostly in debt instruments, which is 50 percent above current infrastructure spending rates in the region. This need for long-term capital explains why many Greater Inner Eurasian states have become interested in devising their own regional and continental projects to make certain that they are not left out of China’s and Russia’s grand schemes to maximize transit infrastructure–driven economic growth.

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The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
The Johns Hopkins University