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How Competitive Is the Caucasus Train to China?

Kazakh Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov at the BTK opening

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway opens a new front in competition between the Caucasus club (Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia) and Russia; this time, for a prime spot in the Chinese-government-led effort to reinvent an Asia-Europe trade route, the Silk Road.

But beneath all the boasting, lies one critical, unanswered question – can the BTK line truly beat out Russia as the rail link between China and the West? 

Once more putting the South Caucasus on the map as a layover point for East-West transit, the train on October 30 chugged some 826 kilometers (523 miles) from Azerbaijan, across Georgia into the northeast of Turkey, where, in the city of Kars, it connected to Turkey’s existing railway infrastructure. 

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How Competitive Is the Caucasus Train to China?

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