Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is to raise plans for a tunnel to link his country with America when he meets his US counterpart, George W Bush, next Sunday.
The 64-mile tunnel would run under the Bering Strait between Chukotka, in the Russian far east, and Alaska; the cost is estimated at £33 billion.
Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club and governor of Chukotka, has invested £80m in the world’s largest drill but has denied that it is linked with the development.
Proposals for such a tunnel were approved by Tsar Nicholas II in the early 20th century but were abandoned during the Soviet era. If finally built, the tunnel would allow rail connections between London and New York.
A Kremlin spokesman confirmed last week that Putin seeks to build “a real bridge” between Russia and America when he meets Bush at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Officials in Washington and Moscow view the talks as an opportunity to ease expected tensions about this week’s Nato summit in Romania. Clashes are expected over America’s planned missile defence system in eastern Europe and whether to allow Ukraine and Georgia into Nato.
Russia said last month that it would have to aim its own missiles at Ukraine if it joined Nato and hosted military facilities.
While Russia cannot block Nato membership, allies know that boosting links with the two former Soviet states would strain ties with Moscow – ties that are already damaged over the independence of Kosovo and the US missile shield.
Although Nato’s 26 members agree in principle that the future of Ukraine and Georgia lies within the alliance, some are wary of angering Russia, which provides a quarter of Europe’s natural gas.