Map is from the New York Times.
"The Arctic Bridge" is the name its advocates give to the shipping route from Murmansk to Churchill Manitoba, in Hudson Bay (in the lower portion of the map). The route is not fully developed, but this summer the Murmansk Shipping Company is sending its second ship across it in two years: Russians hope to show potential of 'Arctic' Bridge.:
Later this summer, a black-hulled Russian freighter will again deliver thousands of tonnes of fertilizer to Churchill, Man., before loading a cargo of Canadian wheat bound for Europe. "We want to attract cargos for the ice-free summer season to demonstrate the potential of this new route," said Alexander Medvedev, director-general of Murmansk Shipping Company, the huge Russian concern that also operates the world's largest fleet of polar-class icebreakers.
A single shipload of inbound fertilizer and outbound grain is hardly a major new trade route. But, the freighter, making its second visit in two summers, may be a harbinger of a bold "Arctic bridge" linking the North American heartland with northern Europe with a shorter, faster ocean route....
Once the ice-free summer routes are proven, then "we can consider prolonging the shipping season with ice-strengthened ships using lanes opened by ice-breakers," Mr. Medvedev said. Murmansk has just ordered 12 new freighters capable of operating in ice.
Churchill and Kabul? Michael Berk explains the connection in Canada's Financial Post: The Arctic Bridge. Churchill, Man., is the key to linking Afghans with the world.
Churchill is Canada's only Arctic deep-water seaport; a crucial shipping point for goods between North America, Europe and Asia. As part of an Arctic Bridge, Churchill is ready for its role on the global stage. Connecting to Murmansk, an ice-free seaport in the extreme northwest of Russia, Churchill could become an end point for the shortest shipping route between North America and rapidly developing Eurasian markets, such as Russia, China and India. Shipping via the Churchill-to-Murmansk Arctic Bridge is nine days faster than the St. Lawrence Seaway passage-- a huge competitive advantage.
....The vision is that, in conjunction with other North American transportation infrastructure projects, goods would enter Churchill and be moved through Manitoba to the U.S. Midwest, and if desired into Mexico....
With the Arctic Bridge connecting North America, Europe and Eurasia in an unprecedented manner, the impetus for the construction of a Eurasian land bridge -- ground transportation routes connecting Central Asia to itself and the rest of the world--becomes enormous.
At present, about US$600-billion worth of goods are shipped from Asia to Europe each year, only 1% of which is moved over inland transit routes. Developing common Eurasian transportation routes is a top priority for many countries in the region, as trade volume is expected to bolster both local economies and security co-operation.
That is the connection to Canada's role in Afghanistan. Linking Afghanistan to other economies and opportunities with its neighbours will help ensure sustained economic growth, which will result in increased security. But without that integration, an Afghan economy that relies heavily on local trade can't support a strong, independent state.
That's why the creation of the Eurasian land bridge, connecting Central Asia to the rest of the world through routes such as the Arctic Bridge, may become the most important economic and geopolitical phenomenon of the 21st century. The vast repositories of natural resources in Russia and Central Asia, abundant human resources and capital in other parts of Asia, advanced European technology and a desire to stabilize Afghanistan are but some of the factors giving rise to the resurgence of Eurasia as global economic and geopolitical powerhouse.
Michael Berk, research fellow at the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, chaired an international panel on "The Eurasian Silk Road: A Corridor Connecting China with Europe" at an Economic Forum in Poland in September.
Joshua Foust explains some of the difficulties with this plan: Afghanistan's Salvation: Churchill, Manitoba?
Revised July 22, July 27, 2008