Middle Corridor: Eurasia Optimized

International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES)[1] from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses developments in the Middle East, Balkans and around the world. Zhuldyz Ramazanova is Information Officer at the International Institute IFIMES. In her text entitled “Middle Corridor: Eurasia Optimized” she is analyzing Eurasian connectivity and the background to different approaches and interests behind them.

● Zhuldyz Ramazanova, Information Officer at the International Institute IFIMES


Middle Corridor: Eurasia Optimized


Amidst the geopolitical repercussions of ongoing war in Ukraine, the Eurasian connectivity is again in focus. It does not only fall on the consideration of Arctic pathways (as a cheaper and increasingly reliable way to connect norther/Atlantic flank of Europe with the Far East and other premium production spots of Asia). Recent considerations, though less present in contemporary western literature, are thoroughly examining different land corridor on the largest landmass of our planet. 

This is how the so-called Middle Corridor has witnessed reinvigorated interest of both scholars and industry. This corridor, encompassing Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Türkiye, has gained prominence as an alternative land route between Europe and the People's Republic of China. The disruption caused by the war to the Northern Corridor which passes through sanctioned Russian and Belarusian territories, has highlighted the Middle Corridor's significance which has the potential to diminish Russia's influence in the region. 

The following IFIMES analysis will briefly elaborate on the Eurasian connectivity and the background to different approaches and interests behind them.    

In our globally interconnected world, roads are the arteries of economic progress. Thus, recent incidents, such as attacks by the Yemeni Houthis on cargo ships in the Suez Canal, emphasize the critical importance of secure transportation routes. As global attention pivots, the spotlight now converges on the Central Asian region—an important nexus able to interlink diverse corners of the world. In a period characterized by ever-increasing geopolitical tensions, the emergence of the Middle Corridor, as an alternative to established trade norms, isn't merely an economic prospect – it is a transformative force that can switch powers and roles. 

Throughout history, bridging the gap between Asia and Europe has been a persistent global interest – to enable or to prevent in its few possible modes (land or sea, warm sea – cold sea). The Northern Corridor, once a main land trade route, is experiencing a decline due to geopolitical tensions and Russia's actions in Ukraine polarizing the world. The road under Russian control is losing its appeal for the west (at least for the time being), exacerbating the need for alternative and more stable pathways. North-South Corridor which was largely analyzed by the IFIMES researcher Lorenzo Somigli is another important road connecting Europe and East Asia. 

Yet the Middle Corridor weaves a transformative thread that passes through strategic countries like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, offering numerous economic opportunities. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in their last year publication concluded that the Central Trans-Caspian Network (CTCN) that goes through Southern Kazakhstan is the most sustainable alternative for establishing a connection between Asia and Europe (2023). 

The interest in this transport route lies, first of all, in the potential opportunity to reduce the time in which goods can be delivered from East Asia to Europe, which will be only twelve days. In comparison, the Northern Corridor takes nineteen days to complete, while the traditional sea pathway through the Indian Ocean takes up to thirty-seven days (Jafarova, 2023). 

Within this changing geopolitical terrain, the transformation in how Central Asia interacts with the global community has become a topic of considerable change and fascination. The Middle Corridor is not a mere choice, it is rather a necessity for countries that seek to broaden trade associations while mitigating geopolitical risks while benefiting all actors. The Middle Corridor is an opportunity to change the trade patterns in the whole of Eurasia while redefining established spheres of influence.