The New Iron Silk Road: The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway

The article examines the role of the railways in the transforming landscape of Eurasia, and argues that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, which has a projected completion date of 2013, symbolically illustrates the end of Russia’s traditional domination of railway transportation in the Caucasus. Pursuant to this, the author argues that for Azerbaijan, the BTK railway connecting Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey as part of a future Caucasus common market will solidify Baku’s importance as a Caspian trade hub, and strengthen its relations with Central Asian countries. Further, the author emphasizes that the BTK railway has attracted the interest of Central Asian states interested in using the Baku railhead as an “iron gateway” for the export of their commodities and products destined for European markets. Of these, Kazakhstan is taking the biggest steps to enhance its own energy export economy, and is interested in the project serving as a trans-Caspian linkup for its oil exports. The railway will provide Kazakhstan with direct access to the European Union for its oil and agricultural exports for the first time.

Authors: Glen E. Howard