The Increasing Importance of the Caspian Sea Between Europe and China

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The primary purpose of the Belt-Road Project, announced by China, from Kazakhstan to the world in 2013, was the construction of various lines that would make China to reach Europe. China, which acts with a global vision and determines routes, has started implementing the project with investments exceeding billions of dollars. China, which has made infrastructure investments in countries, targeted to maintain trade with the West from the safest regions as soon as possible, with the least cost. In addition, the Beijing administration seeks to develop economic-based cooperation in various countries within the project’s scope.

The most important of the main problems faced by China in reaching the West are the instability, security threats, and conflicts in the countries on the route. This situation jeopardizes the safety of both investments and commercial goods. On the other hand, the Beijing administration turns to countries with which it is relatively safe and with which it cooperates. It can be said that European countries have a similar attitude to China in terms of maintaining trade away from threats and at the least cost.

At this point, the Middle Line, which also includes the Caspian Sea, is one of the most important routes between China and Europe. The Line from China to Europe is divided into two branches. The route, which we can define as the northern branch, continues as China-Kazakhstan-Caspian Sea-Azerbaijan. The Southern branch proceeds on the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Caspian Sea-Azerbaijan route. The lines converging in Azerbaijan are then delivered to Türkiye via Georgia and eventually to Europe. With the implementation of the Zangezur Corrdior, this route will be shortened even more.

From this point of view of the Caspian Sea, there has been a rapprochement between Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, which are on both sides of the sea, recently; because Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan reached an agreement on the friendship zone in the Caspian Sea in January 2021. Kazakhstan has also made various contacts with both Azerbaijan and Georgia since January 2022.

The primary purpose of these contacts is to build a safe and functional route with solid ties between Central Asia and the Caucasus. It can be said that the states of the region set an essential vision in the eyes of Eurasia to make the Middle Line more active and profitable. Because Kazakhstan has called for China to use the Middle Line.[1]

It can be said that the rapprochement between countries in the Caspian Sea allows for a secure connection between China and Europe. At this point, the Caspian policies of China and European countries and their relations with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan are of great importance. First of all, it is known that China has essential relations with all three countries. For example, Azerbaijan is the country with which China has the most intense relations in the Caucasus. Kazakhstan is of vital geopolitical and geoeconomic importance for the Beijing administration. Because a significant part of the most stable and short-distance routes to reach the West passes through the territory of Kazakhstan. On the other hand, Turkmenistan has intense relations with China in many fields, especially in energy.

On the other hand, Europe has been developing its ties with Central Asia and the Caucasus for a while. In particular, the strategic location of Azerbaijan in the Caspian Sea makes this a necessity. The stability of the order established in the Caucasus after the Second Karabakh War enabled Europe to develop healthy relations with the region’s countries. It is known that European countries want to improve their relations with Caspian countries in terms of energy, transportation, and transportation. For this purpose, it is known to support pipeline projects such as Nabucco, TANAP, and TAP. In addition, visits are organized to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan at various levels to establish healthy relations with the east of the Caspian.

As a result, activating the Middle Line means building ties shaped by strong and win-win logic in Eurasia. In particular, transforming the strategic positions of Central Asia and the Caucasus into a profit will enable the sustainable development of countries. This will strengthen the cooperation between regions and countries. It will also pave the way for countries that have stabilized economically in the heart of Eurasia to fight terrorist organizations, radical elements, and separatist groups. In this context, ensuring the security and stability of Central Asia and the Caucasus will directly contribute to the security of Eurasia. Because when Afghanistan-centered problems continue and social movements are experienced due to economic reasons, the most crucial need of Eurasia is strong nation-states that are in solidarity and can confront various issues on their own.

[1] “Kazakh Prime Minister Calls To Intensify Cooperation Through Trans-Caspian International Transport Route At Boao Forum For Asia”, The Central Asia, (Date of Accession: 30.08.2022).

Dr. Emrah KAYA
Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.