The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway promises to become a multi purpose transport system in the Caucasus region and an important component of many international projects.
The estimated capacity of the corridor is one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year. The capacity of the transport corridor can be increased to three million passengers and 20 million tons of cargo. The BTK is already running 150 freight wagons manufactured by the Turkish company Tüdemsaş.
Recently it became known that Russia intends to join the top three of the main founders of the project – Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. At the beginning of May in Ankara, the heads of the railway companies of Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a memorandum on the development of railway transportation in the framework of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. Now it is necessary to coordinate the details with Georgia.
Earlier, the Baku – Tbilisi – Kars railway bypassed the Russian Federation, but now it is intended to be oriented towards cargo flows through the Trans-Siberian railway. The memorandum provides for cooperation to ensure regular transportation along the route, including the establishment of economically reasonable tariffs and the attraction of the other cargoes.
The signing of this document contributes to the formula of economic cooperation in the region, including the formation of completely new transport and economic relations between countries that have not previously been direct partners.
Experts agree that attracting Moscow to this project will significantly enhance the competitive advantages of this route.
Expansion of transit opportunities contributes to the satisfaction of the interests of all participants of this route and this railway. The development of transport infrastructure always makes a profit. For Azerbaijan, it is an opportunity to transport goods to Europe, for Georgia. It is an opportunity to use transit opportunities and increase tourist flow. Turkey’s project provides an opportunity to increase influence in the region. Iran in the face of sanctions is seeking new ties with neighboring countries.
In the whole, the project can be a good driver for the development of the economies of all of the above countries. In addition, the unification of neighbors by common projects is always a positive phenomenon, reducing tensions in relations.
If Georgia intends to turn into a serious hub then the Georgian government should understand that it is practically impossible to do this without Russia’s participation and the implementation of large and efficient transport corridors in the region. Therefore, the reaction of some Georgians to Russia’s participation in the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route is inadequate. It’s ill-conceived even from the point of view of the interests of Georgia itself, of the country’s economy.
We can’t escape the objective circumstances. Moscow is a major player in the South Caucasus. In addition, everyone knows about the good relations between Baku, Ankara and Moscow. Azerbaijan being a sovereign state has the right to choose its partners based on its own benefit.
The ban on Russia’s joining the project will entail serious consequences for Tbilisi, both political and financial. Cargo traffic will begin to slip a lot, and it will be very difficult for Azerbaijan to return the loan. It’s generally known, when there is concrete financial gain, political differences diverge into the background.