Russian authorities are discussing the possibility of constructing a bridge to Sakhalin Island, with estimated costs amounting to about US$5 billion. Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his annual “Direct Line” Q&A session yesterday that “Such ideas existed as long ago as in 1930s-1950s, and even respective plans were developed. But those plans were never implemented. We are currently working on revival of those plans and considering the issue. There were ideas, and we are currently considering them as well, to build a tunnel instead of a bridge, which is possible too,” Putin said, before adding that the decision had not yet been finalized.
Putin said that, in total, more than the US$5 billion would be needed as apart from the cost of constructing the bridge, it was also necessary to construct related infrastructure, in particular, approaching roads. President Putin stressed that a bridge to Sakhalin would be very useful in terms of reviving the territorial integrity of the country, establishing goods’ movement from Asia to Europe through Russia and, therefore, increasing the importance of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Sakhalin bridge or tunnel, if constructed, would connect the island of Sakhalin with mainland Russia across the narrowest part of the Strait of Tartary and will be some 7-10 kilometers long.
Russia is keen to develop the Asian North-East as it looks to build on improved relations with China and Japan, and is looking at developing new markets in the East. A number of investment incentives have been launched, with the Port of Vladivostok a key draw for exporting products from China’s Heilongjiang Province as well as the potential development of its Arctic Ports.
“Russia is increasingly looking at developing trade and investment ties with Asia rather than Europe” says Chris Devonshire-Ellis of Dezan Shira & Associates. “Asian Russia is looking ahead to economic ties with Japan and North China. North-East Asia remains somewhat of a backwater in terms of development, projects such as the proposed Sakhalin Bridge will help attract investment into the region”.
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