Russia's plan to build a tunnel from Siberia to Alaska is not only a great idea, it might be essential if Russia wants to retain sovereignty over its sprawling eastern territory. Analysts have long predicted that demographic forces will eventually hand Siberia to China, and if Russia continues to allow the territory's population to decline the point of no return will be reached even more quickly.

The first area for consideration is one of demographics. Let us begin by addressing Russia’s demographic crisis. Few will doubt that Russia is experiencing a demographic crisis today as its population declines steadily with each passing year. What is most troubling is the fact that there seems to be no end in sight for the decline. The problem is especially acute in Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East, which is populated by only 7.5 million out of the 146 million in the Russian Federation as a whole. According to Garnett, the rate of Russians leaving Siberia in 1991 was 12 per 10,000, while in 1992 that rate jumped to 56 per 10,000. Overall, 225,000 left the area in 1990-1992 as the economic situation and standards of living plummeted in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet state.57 This demographic crisis has the potential to cause serious political instability in the region. Somewhat pessimistically, Trenin writes that "Russians must realize that if they cannot ensure development of the Far East and Siberia, Russia will lose those territories one way or another and somebody else will then develop them".58 When one looks across the border, it is easy to see where Trenin’s concern stems from: the Heilongjiang province on the other side is home to nearly 120 million Chinese. Furthermore, while Primorskiy Krai is home to 2.3 million Russian citizens, its neighboring region in China has a population of 70 million.

So the tunnel won't just be great for America, it will also facilitate the economic development that will be Russia's only chance at maintaining its hold on its eastern frontiers. Details about the tunnel:

Russia plans to build the world's longest tunnel, a transport and pipeline link under the Bering Strait to Alaska, as part of a $65 billion project to supply the U.S. with oil, natural gas and electricity from Siberia.

The project, which Russia is coordinating with the U.S. and Canada, would take 10 to 15 years to complete, Viktor Razbegin, deputy head of industrial research at the Russian Economy Ministry, told reporters in Moscow today. State organizations and private companies in partnership would build and control the route, known as TKM-World Link, he said.

A 6,000-kilometer (3,700-mile) transport corridor from Siberia into the U.S. will feed into the tunnel, which at 64 miles will be more than twice as long as the underwater section of the Channel Tunnel between the U.K. and France, according to the plan. The tunnel would run in three sections to link the two islands in the Bering Strait between Russia and the U.S. ...

The planned undersea tunnel would contain a high-speed railway, highway and pipelines, as well as power and fiber- optic cables, according to TKM-World Link. Investors in the so- called public-private partnership include OAO Russian Railways, national utility OAO Unified Energy System and pipeline operator OAO Transneft, according to a press release which was handed out at the media briefing and bore the companies' logos.

I hope it works out, because the project will give us cheaper access to non-Muslim oil sources as well as manufactured goods from the Far East. I expect that transporting goods on a trans-Siberia-Alaska railroad will be cheaper than moving them via ship across the Pacific.

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