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Moscow Bering Strait Meeting Charts Megaproject, Hears From LaRouche and Hickel on War-Avoidance Through Economic Development

April 24, 2007 (EIRNS)—Several hundred people gathered in Moscow today at a conference on "A Transcontinental Eurasia-America Transport Link via the Bering Strait." High-level Russian participants were joined by speakers from Korea, Japan, and the United States. In the opening session, two American contributions put forward the idea that great development projects are the path, leading away from war. These were the remarks by former Governor of Alaska and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel, a strong backer of the Bering Strait tunnel project, and Lyndon LaRouche's article, "The World's Political Map Changes: Mendeleyev Would Have Agreed." The article by LaRouche, requested by conference organizers for publication in connection with the event, was read to the meeting by Dr. Jonathan Tennenbaum, a collaborator of LaRouche for many years.

The Bering Strait meeting is the first of a series of conferences called Megaprojects of Russia's East, being organized by the Russian Academy of Sciences Council for the Study of Productive Forces (SOPS), in conjunction with the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade (MERT), the Russian Ministry of Transport, the state-owned company Russian Railroads, and several regional governments in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Academician Alexander Granberg, the head of SOPS, said at today's session, that the next step is design and feasibility studies for the 6,000-km rail-road-pipeline-power corridor from Yakutsk in Eastern Siberia to Fort Nelson, Canada, including a 100-km tunnel under the Bering Strait. There will really be two 50-km tunnels, Granberg pointed out, because there are islands in the strait.

Conference participant Louis Cerny of the American Railroad Association also presented the technical feasibility of the Bering Strait crossing, noting that the schedule for the project as a whole could be sped up by simultaneous construction of its different parts.

The project and the conference were announced at an April 18 press conference, held by members of the project team from the MERT. It received wide publicity on Russian TV and in other media. At today's event, huge banners showing a map of the intercontinental project decorated the hall.

Many of the Russian speakers referred to recent government decisions, which make the Bering Strait project a live option. One of these is the Federal Target Program called "Development of the Far East and Transbaikal Region to 2013." As the April 13 EIR reported ("The Russian Far East: A World Great Project," by Mary Burdman), Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has been active in launching an array of measures to address the underdevelopment and depopulation of these regions. On April 10, at a meeting chaired by President Putin on national rail development over the next two decades, Russian Railroads CEO Vladimir Yakunin presented the plan to build the 3,500-km Russian rail line from the right bank of the Lena River, to the Bering Strait.

The overall project is an estimated $65 billion undertaking, which Russian organizers anticipate will handle 3 percent of world physical-goods cargoes.

Governor Hickel made a passionate plea to the conference, about the danger of war. Why fight wars, he asked, when we should be building great projects? We should stop fighting, and build.

Tennenbaum introduced LaRouche's paper as the work of the American economist, best known in Russia for his Science of Physical Economy and for his advocacy of great projects. LaRouche's discussion of the legacy of chemist and national economist Dmitri Mendeleyev, as well as his relating the cooperation of great nations on the Bering Strait project to the tasks of war-avoidance, were received with great interest by the Russian participants.

Tennenbaum, who is known in Russia especially as a co-author of EIR's 1997 Special Report The Eurasian Land-Bridge: The 'New Silk Road' - Locomotive for Worldwide Economic Development, then elaborated the concept of infrastructure corridors, and networks of intersecting such corridors. Building them in the far north is a challenge for the 21st Century, he said, which can be met by building whole chains of nuclear-powered cities. U.S. work on building nuclear facilities in Greenland in the past, together with Russia's city-building experience in Siberia, makes this a tailor-made area for U.S.-Russian cooperation, Tennenbaum said.

Maxim Bystrov, deputy head of the Federal Agency for Special Economic Zones, picked up on LaRouche's and Tennenbaum's remarks about the enormous financial bubble that exists today, as against the potential for directing funds into productive investment like these infrastructure projects. The liquidity won't flow into long-term projects on its own, Bystrov stressed; that requires decisions by the state.

Governor of Yakutia (Sakha Republic) Vyacheslav Shtyrov discussed the enormous development potential of that East Siberian region, noting that "we have all of the elements of Mendeleyev's periodic table" in Yakutia, as well as having Mendeleyev's ideas.