A Bridge Between the USA and Russia
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A Bridge Between the USA and Russia

August 15, 2019


The relationship between the USA and Russia is complicated. JFK: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile, launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States.” *Intense laughter* JFK: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Their rivalry defined the second half of the 20th century. Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.” Millions are spent each year trying to improve relations, and even more spent undermining them again. To many their opposites; chalk and cheese, vodka and apple pie, Oceania vs Eurasia, East vs West. It’s easy to forget that only 51 miles separates them. If we’re going to spend so much time, energy and money trying to build bridges between Russia and America, then why not just build an actual bridge? In 1986 Ronald Reagan gave engineer Tung Yun Lin a National Medal of Science, Lin handed back to him a 16-page plan for an intercontinental peace bridge. Whether for environmental, financial, or political reasons a bridge across the Bering Strait has been on someone’s agenda ever since. Most of this talk has come to nothing, but in 2015 Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping started to make some actual plans. *Theme music* The Bering Strait is a 51 mile sea passage separating Siberia and Alaska. In 1867 the US bought Alaska for 7.2 million dollars or 2 cents an acre. This created a new border right down the middle separating two small islands, Big Diomede (Russian), and Little Diomede (now American). The same boundary is followed today by the International Date Line, giving the Diomedes the adorable nicknames of “Tomorrow Island” and “Yesterday Isle”. Ever since the Cold War Big Diomede and most of Russia’s Eastern Shore has been a military zone. No travel is permitted. In fact, you can’t arrive or depart there even with a Russian visa. The closest you can get is the port of Provideniya, and even then you should probably get permission before rocking up. This hasn’t stopped people trying though, in 2006 Karl Bushby and Dimitri Kieffer navigated the strait’s ice floes on foot. However Lynne Cox swam between the Diomedes in 1987, The public support was so immense that Reagan and Gorbachev thanked her at the signing of the nuclear forces treaty. Gorbachev: “It took a daring American girl by the name of Lynne Cox a mere two hours to swim the distance separating our two countries, By her courage she showed how close to each other our two peoples live.” Trump: “We’re not gonna let them violate a nuclear agreement, and go out and do weapons. So we’re going to terminate the agreement. We’re gonna pull out.” We could really do with another Lynne Cox right now. Something to bring the US and Russia together. The whole world a little closer. Even if it has to be marketed to us as a trade deal or a “Trans-Pacific Infrastructure Investment”. A bridge would be a common project, a physical link forcing superpowers to cooperate. But ignoring all political and financial hurdles for now. Is it even possible? Currently the world’s longest sea bridge is 34 miles across, Connecting Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau in China. And although the Bering Strait is 51 miles, the longest bridge you’d actually have to build would only be 26. The Diomedes make two perfect stopping points. You could build a US bridge on one side and a Russian bridge on the other. In fact, make it a race the loser has to build the three-mile bridge connecting the two. Construction would be slow, for seven months of the year the temperature is well below freezing, and although the Strait rarely freezes large chunks of ice are funneled through the passage from the Arctic. These ice floes would exert enormous pressure on any structure we built. There may be engineering solution around this, but perhaps the simplest would be to scrap the bridge and dig a tunnel. Tunnels may not lend themselves to metaphors as well, but they’re warmer, often cheaper over long distances, you can lay gas, oil, and electricity alongside. They’re protected from harsh weather, and ships can still pass above them. With the Arctic ice caps melting, the Bering Strait could become a very busy shipping lane in the next 20 years. The Strait is relatively shallow, the maximum depth is only 55 metres. The Channel Tunnel is a hundred metres below sea level. That opened in 1994 connecting the UK to Europe, and that relationship is going swimmingly. A tunnel (unlike a bridge) doesn’t have to intersect the Diomedes, it can start and end at more convenient points. But therein lies the problem. There are no convenient points. Here’s a map of the Alaskan and Siberian road networks, the closest highways are 2,000 miles apart. In Russia anything east of Magadan is impossible to get to by car. And although there are plans for major Alaskan routes, anything west of Fairbanks is tricky. Tunnelling under the Bering Strait would be the easy part, you’d also have to build thousands of miles of roads, over rough terrain, in incredibly harsh conditions. And after all that you’ve still got to persuade people to drive it. The only sensible option would be a train. You’ll still face all the same obstacles during construction, but a warm high-speed railroad from Anchorage to Vladivostok is way more convenient than a 60 hour drive through the Arctic. The main use of such a railroad would be freight. If we extend the network through North America and into China, it could transport a significant amount of the world’s cargo. But now we’ve got one of the biggest engineering projects in the world, costing hundreds of billions of dollars. Is there a need for it? An Arctic railroad would have to compete with our existing freight network, boats and planes. The busiest shipping route in the world by cargo is China to North America. So let’s say we want to ship one metric ton between the two busiest ports, Shanghai to Vancouver. We’ve got four options; ship, air, rail ,and road. A boat can do it in 15 to 20 days, cost us $300, and produce 225kg of CO2. Plane: 1 day, $3,500, 4,400kg. A train: 2 to 4 days, $400, 630kg. And a truck: 7 to 10 days, $900, 1,050kg. If speed is the priority and money no object, a plane is the way to go. But if speed doesn’t matter and you want the best value for money then shipping is the clear winner. Ships and planes account for 90% of global trade, that is a lot of fuel being burned all day, every day. Diesel trains are not environmentally friendly, but both Alaska and Siberia have stores of untapped geothermal energy. We need to replace as many major transport routes as possible with renewable alternatives, and high-speed electric trains are one of them. There’d definitely be a market for an Arctic railroad, it would dramatically improve travel time without an enormous increase in price. Whether it would be profitable for whoever built it though is another matter. It would have to be a financier with very deep pockets, and probably an ulterior motive. That pretty much leaves three options; Russia, America, or China. China are building railways and shipping ports everywhere. They’re already building high-speed railways connecting Europe, Africa and Asia. All with China as the central hub. They don’t just want to be at the crossroads. They want to be the crossroads, for all future international trade and transport. That means North and South America are definitely on the agenda. In fact, they proposed a high-speed railway connecting china to the US in 2007. Putin has given China approval to build through Siberia. And then in 2015 China and Russia announced they were collaborating, to build the Siberia and Alaska passage together. This is mostly just talk, but it’s getting louder and more frequent. There’s a reasonable chance of it happening with or without US involvement. It would be a real shame if multiple countries didn’t cooperate on this project. Not to mention the dangerous power dynamic it could create. An Arctic railroad connecting China, Russia, and the US would be an amazing achievement. An opportunity for three superpowers, currently jostling for their place in the century, to collaborate on a common project. One that could genuinely improve the world, environmentally, financially, and politically.

46 Comments

  • Reply Jonathan Thomas August 4, 2019 at 3:02 am

    It will take more than another Lynn Cox. Russia was in detente mode at the time. Putin is no Gorbachev. Trump may not be a Reagan, either, but Gorbachev was looking for reasons to slow Russia's roll.

  • Reply Ian McEwan August 4, 2019 at 3:41 am

    I love how he almost implies Vancouver is part of America

  • Reply Dustin Young August 4, 2019 at 7:00 am

    3:24 how about this the Russians build the 3 Mile Bridge so it's 26:26.

  • Reply Ellie Lamb August 4, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    Canada?

  • Reply David R. August 4, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    I'd sign that petition

  • Reply Spreehox August 4, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    John Kennedy was the most American man who ever lived

  • Reply Elena&Alexey Smirnov August 5, 2019 at 4:13 am

    If you think, a connection between the USA and Russia over Bering Strait is political issue, you are wrong. Mainly it has economical meaning. When you grasp that, I will tell you what and how we might construct there to fulfill the task in the right way.

  • Reply China Dean August 5, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Canada is great. Justin Trudeau is the joke

  • Reply Ziric August 5, 2019 at 11:36 am

    uWu WailWoad nuzzles putin

  • Reply Random User August 5, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    If trump and Putin were such good friends, where’s the bridge

  • Reply Abu Ubaidah Al Mifdhal Al Jarrah of Melacca August 6, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    1:36 7.2 Million???

  • Reply Ole Ksandr August 6, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Russia must die

  • Reply Dj Broadhurst August 7, 2019 at 2:19 am

    The us Air Force does a bombig campaign on eastern Russia

  • Reply RheinlanderB August 7, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    there's where this bridge will be , no alive regions around , you should really build a roads in addition for that

  • Reply Gamer La-Jiah 13 August 8, 2019 at 5:35 am

    If this was to actually happen and this could connect China to Russia across to Alaska into Canada and then back to the mainland US that could actually be a major historical moment.It would not only make trains more prominent profitable in the US it would be a very cheep (compared to plains)and scenic route all across the world if China is actually making railroads into Africa and Europe.The whole world would be a lot more connected.(besides Australia and New Zealand)

  • Reply itpiss August 8, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    lol canada is usa's forest, its not really a country XD

  • Reply Apollo August 8, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Hyperloop

  • Reply Cj Looklin August 8, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    2 hours to swim 51 miles?! Isn't swimming slower than running?!

  • Reply Peter Griffin August 9, 2019 at 8:37 am

    WE CAN NOW GOPNIK WITH THE KOMRADS NOW

  • Reply Charlotta Dellborg August 9, 2019 at 10:14 am

    All I want is to be able to go around the world by train smh

  • Reply Los Michoacanos no perdona August 9, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    You Americans Make Me Sick With your Chesseburgers Large coke And A Swetty Shirt That Says Proud To Be American And the Top of It All You're The Most Racist Country In the World America Will Pay for What They done

  • Reply WildandLiving August 10, 2019 at 1:15 am

    Makes invading alot easier. That's the biggest thing stopping them logistics

  • Reply John von Shepard August 10, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    it's a stupid idea.

  • Reply sleepercell August 10, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    I hate to pop your bubble first the Arctic isn't melting as promised secondly why build a expensive tunnel across the Bering Strait when nobody lives there. Who would use this very expensive tunnel?

  • Reply Robert Landers August 10, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    Run the railroad through Yukon, NWT and Saskatchewan then the USA.

  • Reply Derrick McAdoo August 11, 2019 at 12:22 am

    Both are white. The 'fight' is an illusion. White people don't fight eachother. Duh. The Cold War only strengthened both sides through fear. The end. Allies. You people are really stupid.

  • Reply Zachary Brown-Silverstein August 11, 2019 at 5:32 am

    How exactly would this plan improve the world environmentally like you say at (7:40). You never make an environmental argument. Wouldn't construction and increased trade demand totally offset any possible savings? Aren't barges less CO2 demanding then trains per unit/mile?

  • Reply lazyidiotofthemonth August 11, 2019 at 5:59 am

    Really? this idea has always been a fucking Joke. even if you could make a bridge between Yesterday Is. and Tommorow Is. you still have to make a bridge, that does not interfere with Sea traffice, across approx. sixty miles in seas that are 500 m deep. Stop joking. Not Possible. Second: There will never be any condition that America will tolerate a Land bridge between itself and Russia.

  • Reply Alrich Andoyo August 11, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Just go on creative mode..

  • Reply Vuk Todic August 11, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Man you would first need to build road long as hell trough siberia then 3 bridgets and again road from alaska to conect who the hell is wanting to go trough -50° when they can go with plane

  • Reply Alia Atreides August 12, 2019 at 12:09 am

    Who is going to travel 50+ miles of bridge or tunnel, though?! 😲

  • Reply Steve Block August 12, 2019 at 3:02 am

    A twuck to ship something from china to Vancouver….better luck saying wailwoad with "r"s

  • Reply Sensory_Deprivation August 12, 2019 at 3:05 am

    I don't really see how lucrative it would be. For starters, Alaska is frozen wasteland with a tiny fraction of the total US population. Eastern Russia is also a frozen wasteland and 75% of all Russians live in Western Russia. Russia doesn't really import anything the US could give a shit about. Even their vodka sucks. And Russia isn't interested in US based products. So who the fuck is going be to taking this arctic train to nowhere? Sure, it would be cool in engineering terms and for Russia and the US to actually become trade partners, but I don't see an industry for it. Sorry, but I'm out (shark tank reference).

  • Reply Ico Esguerra August 12, 2019 at 11:13 am

    BERLIN
    WALL BUILD

    Berlin people HERE BERLIN PEOPLE TURN DOWN THIS WALL

    WALL BROKE

    THE GREAT WALL OF MEXICO AND US BUILD

    MEXICO PEOPLE AND US

    HEY MEXICO AND US TEAR DOWN THIS WALL

  • Reply Ico Esguerra August 12, 2019 at 11:14 am

    KOREAN WALL BUILD

    KOREANS TEAR DOWN THIS WALL

  • Reply JK Wright August 12, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    How would they be able to connected to the north America without US

  • Reply Kirk Claybrook August 12, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Just do it already! Then we'd like one to Australia please

  • Reply Mark Pats August 12, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    Just build the 3 mile bridge between the two islands and there you have it .

  • Reply Stalin ,exe August 12, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    If only the americans let us build the bridge and let us spread communism to the united states we'd also be able to send so many americans to gulag. I see this as nothing but a net positive we get to spread communism and remove capitalist pigs and they get communism and to starve to death like us

  • Reply Michael Best August 13, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    This building a bridge between these two countries sounds like a great idea, but in 2019, it's not going to happen because of money. There is NO money for it. That's the reality. I don't like that no money answer reason, but it's the truth. I like the idea of building a bridge. Maybe we can still build a bridge (in a non literal way) like we did back in the days of Reagan and Gorbechav ! ? Maybe the future peoples will get past these problems and find ways to build and work together ? The ideas are already here !

  • Reply Cristero Warrior August 14, 2019 at 5:03 am

    Russia is not the Soviet Union

  • Reply RCmies August 14, 2019 at 8:08 am

    I mean it's great for driving the tanks

  • Reply plezx29 August 14, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    Despite the fact that it doesn't look like Alaska and Russia moving apart….it is, by small amounts obviously

  • Reply James Drelling August 15, 2019 at 7:52 am

    Transport lots of cargo! And troops, supplies, gear etc. I as an American whos a patriot want to say I like our distance from China and Russia.

  • Reply James Drelling August 15, 2019 at 7:55 am

    ChInA BELT AND ROAD INTIATIVE IS TERRIBLE. DEBT TRAPPING. You want communists and Authoritarians, declared enemies, to be connected to us. NO. Are you stupid? I'm down for more infrastructure for Alaskans but if you do your research you cannot trust either if those countries! Look into Chinas belt and road intiative look how it turns out for everyone who agrees. They're trying to enslave everyone. Theyre colonizing africa in their own way. If you want to actually look into this there's a normie channel that isn't politicallt affiliated left or right called China Uncensored. Hes pretty up to date I personally do my own research but hes very interesting.

  • Reply ArtificialDjDAGX August 15, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Vodka and apple-pie sounds pretty fucking delicious.

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