The Silk Road by rail is now reality.
Despite no American aid in its construction, the United States should be ecstatic over the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway for three reasons:
- European allies of the United States were punished by Russia for imposing trade sanctions. The sanctions were to penalize Russia for essentially invading the Ukraine but in response, Russia prohibited transit of European goods through Russia to China and Asia by the only railway from Europe to China.
- Certain petrochemical products can be shipped by rail to complement natural gas through the $46 billion Southern Gas Corridor, under construction, that will deliver natural gas to Greece, Albania and Italy. That pipeline will join the existing Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, opened in 2005, which terminates in Turkey and fills oil tankers destined for ports around the world, including Israel.
- The new railway eliminates expensive ocean shipping to and from Asia, costs half the price of air freight, and bypasses economic and political interference from Russia.
It should be noted that American aid for the project was blocked by congressmen in Washington, D.C., who were heavily lobbied by the Armenian lobby. It claimed the project would further isolate landlocked, poverty-stricken Armenia, cause it heavy economic damage, and was a waste of money because existing Soviet-era railways in Armenia could be used between Azerbaijan and Turkey.