A Glimpse of Light in Times of Darkness

An unusual gathering took place in Washington on May 21, 2024. At a time when US-Russia relations hit the lowest historical level, when Washington keeps pumping tens of billions of dollars plus huge volumes of all kinds of weapons in its proxy war with Russia in Ukraine and rejects the calls for using diplomacy to end this conflict, a large group of American and Russians, some via Zoom, assembled in the Washington Times headquarters, not too far from the Capitol Hill. The subject was the construction of the global New York-London highway, a breathtaking idea with great vision that also comes with significant geopolitical challenges. Indeed, if one looks at the map, the highway’s construction would require a tunnel or bridge over the Bering Strait to connect the American state of Alaska with the Russian Peninsula of Chukotka.

Those who are ready to immediately dismiss this project as a pipe dream at best or Putin’s sinister effort to undermine American and British democracies at worst should take note that this was a bipartisan group that believes that this highway “offers a credible proposition for helping calm turbulent international waters, as it would potentially benefit every nation on earth.”  As organizers stated correctly, despite the current problems between the US and Russia, “the two countries have demonstrated the ability to work together in the International Space Station.” In historical terms, not so long ago, they were allies in the war with Nazi Germany. Given the upcoming June 6, 80th anniversary of D-Day, a celebration of its success should be combined with gratitude for the contribution of the Red Army on the Eastern fronts.

Donald Trump won in 2016, and one of his campaign’s slogans was, “Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.” Considering that Japan and Germany, once bitter enemies, are today Western closest allies and Vietnam is now a trading partner with the US, perhaps those who advocate this project are visionaries rather than naive dreamers.

Actually, this idea is not new, and many unsuccessful attempts to build this tunnel have been made going back to 1890 when William Gilpin, the first governor of the Colorado Territory, envisaged a vast “Cosmopolitan Railway,” linking the entire world through a series of railways. One can find other such attempts on the web.

Closer to our time in 2007, Russia revived a 150-year-old idea that once had the support of leading republicans of Lincoln’s 19th century America to unite rail lines in America and Eurasia through the Bering Strait crossing in the form of a 65-mile tunnel. With China’s Polar Silk Road having extended the traditionally east-west development corridor into the Arctic and as China and Russia have increasingly merged the Belt and Road Initiative with the Eurasian Economic Union, this new development dynamic offers incredible economic opportunities for all Arctic nations.

In 2014, Chinese transport experts proposed building a roughly 10,000-kilometer high-speed rail line from northeast China to the United States. The project would include a tunnel under the Bering Strait and connect to the contiguous United States via Wales, Alaska, along the river to Fairbanks, Alaska, and along the Alaska Highway to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

In 2015, another possible collaboration between China and Russia was reported, part of the Trans-Eurasian Belt Development, a transportation corridor across Siberia that would include a road bridge with gas and oil pipelines between the easternmost point of Siberia and the westernmost point of Alaska. It would link London and New York by rail and superhighway via Russia if it were to go ahead.

Interestingly, when the conversation turns to the budget for building this tunnel, it is estimated at $99 billion, which is obviously a lot but less than what is already spent on the war in Ukraine, which could have been easily avoided if the West hadn’t pushed it into NATO.

Many other US-Russia cooperation proposals and concrete projects have been repeatedly presented to the US government, only to be ignored or rejected outright. The war machine is very strong and is not easy to overcome. Still, what happened on May 21 this year showed that those who advocate peace and win-win cooperation between the nations are not giving up, giving us some hope and a glimpse of light in times of darkness.

Edward Lozansky is President of American University in Moscow.