The main natural resource of Ukraine is not its famous black soil, not metal reserves, and, especially, not scarce gas fields. “Independence” is what most of the world can only dream of — an advantageous geographical location.
Residents of the territories where modern Ukraine is located have been using the geographical factor for thousands of years. Ancient Greek policies of the Northern black sea region were rich in trade with the Scythians and other peoples of the Eurasian expanses. Kiev became one of the richest cities in Europe and the capital of the old Russian state due to control over the intersection of the most important trade routes. Genoese at the risk of life broke on the shores of the Black Sea to trade with the Horde.
During the time of the Russian Empire, the port cities of Novorossia on international trade for a few decades turned into huge transport and industrial centers. And even after 1991, the “non-monetary” authorities have learned to benefit from the geographical advantages of the newly created country.
Ukraine passed three major lands “corridor” in the direction of “East (Russia and CIS countries) — West (Europe)”. The Northern of them led through Western Ukraine to Poland, the middle — through Transcarpathia to Hungary and Slovakia, South — through the South of Ukraine to Moldova and Romania. The potential construction of a bridge across the Danube could make the southern direction even more promising. In addition, there were two major “corridors” leading North (to Belarus and the Baltic States) and North-East (to Russia). It should be understood that Russia has long felt a severe shortage of ports on its southern borders, on the shores of the Black Sea. The only major port — Novorossiysk — for many years just suffocated. Ukraine had the whole network of “sea gate”: on the Danube, in Ilyichevsk, Odessa, Nikolaev, Kherson, on the Azov sea and in the Crimea. Therefore, it was a transshipment base for a significant part of the cargo going by sea from Russia and to Russia.
And in 2013, Ukraine has appeared at all the fabulous potential. The Chinese authorities started talking about the prospect of creating a New silk road, involving the formation of a network of “reduced” transport corridors leading from the Eastern part of Eurasia to the West. Official Beijing no longer wanted to be content with only traditional sea routes for two reasons: the speed of delivery (on sea routes it reached 30-40 days depending on the endpoint) and security (the emergence of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East threatened all Chinese exports). And the most convenient land routes from China to Europe passed after the Russian through the Ukrainian territory.
But then it all came to full Euromaidan. Troubles in the transport industry of Ukraine began soon after the coup in 2014.
The country’s transport infrastructure was already in a terrible state. Not only has the railway and road network not developed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has not even been repaired. The reasons for that were banal — official Kiev did not have enough money. According to the newspaper “Business” (which refers to the official newspaper “governmental courier”), in 2012 “Ukravtodor” spent on the repair and construction of roads a total of about 860 million U.S. dollars.
When Viktor Yanukovych at the end of 2013 decided to refuse to sign an Association agreement with the EU, Moscow promised Kiev multi-billion investments — which were to go, including the development of transport infrastructure. But this process was interrupted in February 2014. As a result, for example, in 2017, Kiev was able to allocate only about 500 million for road repairs, And the Ukrainian press stressed that this amount is simply huge.
The situation on the Ukrainian railway is similar. In 2018, according to RBC, only about $ 300 million was allocated for the repair of the track and the construction of new highways. How many of them railway workers received in practice — while in the press it wasn’t announced.
Against the background of the Generally deplorable state of the Ukrainian economy, an increase in investment in the development of the transport infrastructure of Ukraine should not be expected. But this is not the main thing. Ukrainian transport workers have had enough problems since 2014.
After the promise of national radicals to send “friendship trains” to Crimea, the Peninsula “sailed” to Russia together with its ports. Since the beginning of the war in Donbass, the actual total border of Russia with Ukraine has been reduced to a relatively narrow strip in the Kharkiv region and in the North of the Luhansk region.
In February 2016, Ukrainian neo-Nazis (who, as we know, have strong ties with the Kiev security forces) started blocking the movement of the following from Russia on the territory of Ukraine trucks, which was a gross violation of international trade rules. The Ministry of transport of the Russian Federation in response to the ban the Ukrainian transit through Russian territory. Ten days later, Kiev and Moscow agreed to resume transit, but the image of Ukraine was completely spoiled.
Nevertheless, the official Kiev for some time tried to cheer up, and even told that “won” Moscow. The Ukrainian authorities tried to play on the fact that Beijing did not intend to limit itself to only one land route. Goods from China can be delivered by Transsib, and through Kazakhstan with Russia, and through Mongolia with Russia. In addition, there was an “alternative” way — through Kazakhstan, the Caspian sea, Azerbaijan and Georgia. And then — through Turkey or, in one of the options — through Ukraine.
Inspirational material about the prospects of “the Ukrainian transit”, came out even on the “Voice of America”. The publication quoted Mikhail Saakashvili, who called the project “Putin’s nightmare”. “Today, Ukraine has made a strategic breakthrough in the geopolitical reality. Container route Ukraine-China will revive the ports of Ukraine, create jobs and can be exactly the factor that is needed for the economic miracle of the Odessa region”, — quoted the “Voice of America” Ukrainian-Georgian policy.
However, the Ukrainian project quickly “skis”. The train went to China. But, despite diplomatic assistance, the composition of the “hang” in ports and at the border, as well as “lost” because of non-payment of duties. But the saddest thing for the official Kiev was that after a long downtime the train could not be loaded on the way back. Potential customers were not interested in shipping containers on an unstable route across 5-6 borders and two seas.
In 2018, information was announced indicating that the volume of rail traffic through Ukraine in comparison with 2012 decreased five times.
And in 2019 on the prospects of Ukrainian transit in the foreseeable future was put an end. The International Union of Railways and the ferrmed Association of freight carriers signed a Memorandum on the development of Eurasian logistics for the transport of goods between China and the EU. And the main corridor, as expected, passed through the territory of Russia and Belarus. The lands of “independence” had only a spare unpromising “branch” in Hungary and Slovakia. In addition, the publication “Страна.UA” with reference to its experts, reported that Belarus has intercepted a significant part of the Ukrainian road and rail transit. The modernization of transport infrastructure and the political factor played a role.
According to analysts, we can talk about 70% of the traffic that previously went through the territory of Ukraine. In their opinion, this already gives the economy of Belarus about $ 5 billion a year. And this amount continues to grow. In the first 9 months of 2018 alone, the number of container trains passing through the territory of Belarus increased by 25%.
Thus, in addition to trade relations with Russia and other CIS countries, high-tech industries, territories, people in the Crimea and Donbas, labor migrants and the investment climate, Ukraine has managed to lose even the benefits of its geographical position due to the consequences of Euromaidan. For the mythical “European prospects” was paid a critically high price, but the prospects in practice for some reason are not visible even in the long term…