Historically, transport links have played the most important role in consolidating geopolitical spaces, nation states, and groups of states. The oldest examples of statehood arose along rivers, so rivers almost never served as natural boundaries. As humankind evolved, it enhanced the natural capabilities for interconnection between regions by building roads, and in the 19th century, rail, and then air services in the 20th century.
The decline of large states and wider unions was accompanied by the degradation of their internal transport systems. The best-known example of this is the Great Silk Road going unused for several centuries, a link that had connected Eurasia but dried up amid conflicts between states and the development of alternatives for global commerce.
For several centuries, land routes in Eurasia were replaced by maritime shipping routes, which supported the overwhelming military domination of Europe and then America. That is why the myth of Central Eurasia’s “continental curse” is one of the most persistent and why these countries became adamant about gaining access to the sea. They needed to become part of globalisation one way or another. Russia, as the largest Eurasian power, spent a signifi cant part of its imperial energy on vying for the seas, often to the detriment of development in other areas. This centuries-old pattern continues to convince land-locked states of their inferiority and inevitable dependence on countries with access to trade routes via the sea. Access to sea trade routes is often viewed as a panacea and a guarantee of participation in international economic affairs with all the benefi ts they provide.