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Bering Strait Tunnel Project
Is Big News in Russia

April 21 (EIRNS)—The April 18 announcement by a Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade project group, about a $65 billion tunnel under the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska, grabbed headlines in Russia this past week. Over 60 stories about it appeared in press, web, and other electronic media, including a report on NTV, national television Channel 2. A clip posted on the NTV website (http://news.ntv.ru/107669/video/) shows a map of the projected rail line from Yakutsk in East Siberia, through Nome and Fairbanks, to Fort Nelson in Canada. The project's boosters gave their press conference at the offices of Izvestia, under a banner that says "Megaprojects of Russia's East."

Academician Alexander Granberg spoke to OPEC.ru, an economics website, April 16 on the advantages of the project. He said the road, rail, and pipeline connection would handle 3 percent of total world trade in physical goods. It will make it possible to harness more of eastern Russia's hydroelectric power potential. It will allow development of previously inaccessible mineral resource deposits. And, said Granberg, the connection of the power systems of Siberia, the Russian Far East, and North America will create economies in electricity supply, worth $20 billion annually.

Academician Granberg said the Russian leadership now sees the development of transportation infrastructure as essential for uplifting Russia's huge outlying regions. Demonstration of this, he said, was the April 10 presentation by Vladimir Yakunin, head of the state-owned company Russian Railways, at a meeting on rail transport, chaired by President Vladimir Putin. There, Yakunin laid out construction of the 3,500-km rail line from the right bank of the Lena River to the Bering Strait, as a top-priority task.

The Russian Academy of Sciences Council for the Study of the Productive Forces (SOPS), which Granberg heads, is co-sponsoring with the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade an April 24 conference on the Bering Strait project. Former Governor of Alaska Walter Hickel is a scheduled participant. Granberg told OPEC.ru that the event is just the first of a series of conferences on "Megaprojects of Russia's East."

In Russia, many identify the Bering Strait crossing project with Lyndon LaRouche, who began to campaign for a trans-Bering bridge-tunnel in 1978. The Bering Strait rail line was shown in EIR's 1997 Special Report on the Eurasian Land-Bridge, on a map that was reproduced in major Russian newspapers at the time. Typical of the Bering Strait project's reputation as LaRouche's idea, is a Russian blogger's comment, posted yesterday. Referring to a recent U.S. State Department report, which pledged support for regime-change in the former Soviet region under the banner of "pro-democracy" movements, the writer said, "This I must mentally applaud: answering the latest attack by the State Department, by proposing a gigantic, joint investment project—the dream of Lyndon LaRouche, who advised the Democrats during the most recent Congressional elections; and this from the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, no less, which is headed by one of our dyed-in-the-wool liberals!"