The ongoing article, a sequel to an earlier write-uptitled “Silk Road to Monroe Doctrine”, published in the daily Nation on May 27, 2016, has largely been inspired by a summary reading in English translation by Thomas Fennell of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s PhD thesis (2008).

The focus is on highlighting the political, economic and strategic implications of raw minerals and rare metals buried in Eurasian soil in general or in mountains and sea beds in particular. The rough estimate of reserves of Russian extractible resources is around USD 28 trillion.

To understand the implication of President Putin’s thoughts, it is important to know the terminology and context. The epithet of “rare metals” is used in a specific sense. It denotes that all the ingredients are not metals due to which some scholars and traders prefer calling them “rare materials”. It also means that these elements are geologically scarce. Further probing shows that the word “rare” aims at suggesting lack of availability of their substitutes as in the case of electronic applications. On one side, these rare materials resist any attempt to define them clearly and on the other, high tech and defence industries depend upon them heavily. In short, their production is complex as they originated from areas on earth which can be counted on one’s fingertips. Nonetheless, Eurasia is one of the rare places where this precious wealth is in abundance.

In the present geopolitical context, the US influence has reduced considerably and instead tension, conflict and instability are the main obstacles towards progress and development in countries along the Silk Road from Kyrgyzstan of the “Tulip Revolution”, onwards to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria, states closer to Caucasus such as Georgia and Chechnya, Ukraine to the Arab Spring states in the Muslim world.

And yet, Eurasia is experiencing an economic upsurge. Vladimir Putin is of the view that this rise up is due to a huge stock of raw minerals and rare materials which will remain the most important factor in giving a boost to the Eurasian economy in the coming years. At the same time, he knows that his country “is first in nickel and natural gas, second in oil after Saudi Arabia, third in coal after US and China, and third in gold after South Africa and the US.” The value of 28 trillion USD of explored reserves invites rational planning reflected by experience and sustainable development through extracting and processing on scientific basis and applying abilities and skills related to a centrally controlled economy. In this way, the Russian Federation will further prepare itself for competitiveness of the state’s defence complex necessary for strategic reserve potential.

Hilary Clinton’s observation of “division and conflict,” could have been meaningful about the political scenario in Eurasia in 2011, but now things have changed, which made President Putin devise a strategy to use rare materials as an instrument to maintain the balance of power, peace and progress.

At this moment, it is important to mention briefly and specifically a few ingredients in which the land of Eurasia is extremely rich. Beryllium that serves as conductor; dysprosium lacks substitute, is scarcer than samarium or cobalt but is required for making speakers and electric toothbrushes and hence its demand is high; and ‘rare earth’ with magnetic properties found in Kazakhstan, uranium and potash in Russian Federation, gold deposits in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and all this wealth is in addition to oil and natural gas resources in Russia from the Arctic to the Caspian seabed; oil reserves of Taq Taq in an area where a mostly Kurdish population lives; Ukraine oil and gas in Donbas basin along with natural gas in Turkmenistan.

Over and above is the network of pipes through which oil and gas flows all over Eurasia and exported to Europe and China. The rail road systems such as trans-Siberian and Yuxinou International Railway covers thousands of miles while many routes connected with the Silk Road are, unlike olden times, well-developed. This transporting facility through air and overland and water is transforming the strategic and trade realities of the Silk Road.

The innovation of tapping and shielding opened up new industries and thus tablets, notebooks, and laptops were introduced and brought to the market. With the passage of time, the new technologies are being used in movie cameras, lenses, cars, and computers. The significance and usefulness of these rare metals and raw minerals is highly strategic.

Fortunately, so many religious, cultural, economic and socio-political practices, values and traditions are common among peoples of Eurasian states. Globalisation and multiculturalism are further minimising corrosion of cultures. If there were contradictions in the Soviet Russian society of 1970s as pointed out by Time magazine journalist Hedrick Smith in his two books which he wrote then, unifying factors have now started emerging.

Thousands of containers belonging to manufacturers like Huawei, Samsung, Toshiba, Zara, Apple, and so on are busy in carrying laptops, computers, TV sets, printers, mobile phones, toys, fabric, silk, and energy supply items like oil, gas, bulbs, medical equipment, agricultural machinery and products and what not from and to Eurasian cities as well as world over.

The investment on the construction of transport routes such as the construction of Russia-China road link and pipelines worth millions of dollars shows that life has started bursting out of stagnation.

Nevertheless, one should not be duped by the comfort brought by the new technologies as this is only one side of the coin. The other side is death and destruction which smart weaponry can inflict, with one remote click.

Let us see what President Vladimir Putin, implicitly, seems to be suggesting with his vast knowledge and understanding just hinted above briefly: that 21st Century is the beginning of new era, the era of raw minerals and rare materials. All through Stone, Iron, Bronze and Industrial Ages, the above mentioned elements of atom were there in the crust of the earth, but it is only recently that these have gained currency. Who could imagine just one hundred years earlier that lights could emanate in seven colours of a rainbow by using laser technology? What a pleasant surprise it is that it is the same laser which is being used for surgical operations! Now one does not have to go to a clinic to know one’s blood pressure and pulse rate. Simple installation of a software application in one’s smart phone or in a wristwatch-like device known as fitbit will show the results. Likewise, elements such as Silicon, which have the characteristics of both metals and metalloids, are highly valuable for containing properties of semi-conductors. This has happened just because of magical properties of some of these ingredients. The interest of the public in manufactured items will certainly have a deep impact in the industrial use of rare materials such as neodymium and dysprosium in the mass production of inventions and innovations which further bring revolutionary changes in man’s life made up of image and sound records. Already the world-over use of smart phones, Google, WhatsApp, Skype, and so on has transformed the ways of life which shows a remarkable effort of democratisation of technology on the part of superpowers.

In the coming years, there is alikelihood of the revivification of Silk Road and a phenomenal rise in the economic growth of the Eurasian Union (the NEW EU?), because of availability in abundance of raw minerals and rare materials here in the area. As in the Iron Age around 1400 BC, the invention of swords, daggers and shields depended upon newly-found secret by Central Turkey metal workers that iron gains further strength if heated on a charcoal fire. This compelled soldiers to reject weapons made from bronze. The presence of hybrid cars, solar panels and wind turbines in Pakistan and elsewhere is proof of the fact that what once was science fiction is now a reality.

President Vladimir Putin has envisaged decades ahead, logically and realistically. Not only did he close the chapter about Crimea, he is now ready to mend relations with Turkey provided Ankara takes the peace initiative first. It is also added that Russian Federation is going to extend the Nordstream pipeline in the Baltic, expecting no hindrance at all while blaming the US government and European Commission of forcing Bulgaria to back out of the planned gas pipeline project under the Black Sea. Remember! President Putin is a man of action who stands by his words. It is all the more necessary to understand his priorities, which are centered around the revivification of the Silk Road and constitution of the New EU so that peace and progress could live cheek by jowl.