Submitted by Pepe Escobar – source Asia Times
The no holds barred US-China strategic competition may be leading us to the complete fragmentation of the current “world-system” – as Wallerstein defined it.
Yet compared to the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan Straits, India-China’s Himalayan border, and selected latitudes of the Greater Middle East, Central Asia shines as a portrait of stability.
That’s quite intriguing, when we consider that the chessboard reveals the interests of top global players intersecting right in the heart of Eurasia.
And that brings us to a key question: How could Kazakhstan, the 9th largest country in the world, manage to remain neutral in the current, incandescent geopolitical juncture? What are the lineaments of what could be described as the Kazakh paradox?
These questions were somewhat answered by the office of First President Nursultan Nazarbayev. I had discussed some of them with analysts when I was in Kazakhstan late last year. Nazarbayev could not answer them directly because he has just recently recovered from Covid-19 and is currently in self-isolation.
It all harks back to what was Kazakhstan really like when the USSR dissolved in 1991. The Kazakhs inherited a quite complex ethno-demographic structure, with the Russian-speaking population concentrated in the north; unresolved territorial issues with China; and geographical proximity to extremely unstable Afghanistan, then in a lull before the all-out warlord conflagration of the early 1990s which created the conditions for the emergence of the Taliban.
To make it even harder, Kazakhstan was landlocked.
All of the above might have led to Kazakhstan either dispatched to political limbo or mired in a perpetual Balkan scenario.
Have soft power, will travel
Enter Nazarbayev as a fine political strategist. From the beginning, he saw Kazakhstan as a key player, not a pawn, in the Grand Chessboard in Eurasia.
A good example was setting up the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building measures in Asia (CICA) in 1992, based on the principle of “indivisibility of Asian security”, later proposed to the whole of Eurasia.
Nazarbayev also made the crucial decision to abandon what was at the time the fourth nuclear missile potential on the planet – and a major trump card in international relations. Every major player in the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia knew that selected Islamic nations were extremely interested in Kazakhstan’s nuclear arsenal.
Nazarbayev bet on soft power instead of nuclear power. Unlike the DPRK, for instance, he privileged Kazakhstan’s integration in the global economy in favorable terms instead of relying on nuclear power to establish national security. He was certainly paving the way for Kazakhstan to be regarded as a trustworthy, get down to business neutral player and a mediator in international relations.
The trust and goodwill towards Kazakhstan is something I have seen for myself in my pan-Eurasia travels and in conversations with analysts from Turkey and Lebanon to Russia and India.
The best current example is Astana, currently Nur-sultan, becoming the HQ of that complex work in progress: the Syrian peace process, coordinated by Iran, Turkey and Russia – following the crucial, successful Kazakh mediation to solve the Moscow-Ankara standoff after the downing of a Sukhoi Su-24M near the Syria-Turkish border in November 2015.
And on the turbulent matter of Ukraine post-Maidan in 2014, Kazakhstan simultaneously kept good relations with Kiev and the West and its strategic partnership with Russia.
As I discussed late last year, Nur-sultan is now actively taking the role of the new Geneva: the capital of diplomacy for the 21st century.
The secret of this Kazakh paradox is the capacity of delicately balancing relations with the three main players – Russia, China and the US – as well as leading regional powers. Nazarbayev’s office boldly argues that can be even translated to Nur-sultan placed as the ideal venue for US-China negotiations: “We are tightly embedded in the US-China-Russia triangle and have built trusting relationships with each of them.”
In the heart of Eurasia
And that brings us to why Kazakhstan – and Nazarbayev personally – are so much involved in promoting their special concept of Greater Eurasia – which overlaps with the Russian vision, discussed in extensive detail at the Valdai Club.
Nazarbayev managed to set a paradigm in which none of the big players feel compelled to exercize a monopoly on Kazak maneuvering. That inevitably led Kazakhstan to expand its foreign policy reach.
Strategically, Kazakhstan is smack in the geographical heart of Eurasia, with huge borders with Russia and China, as well as Iran in the Caspian Sea. Its territory is no less than a top strategic bridge uniting the whole of Eurasia.
The Kazakh approach goes way beyond connectivity (trade and transport), two key planks of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to get closer to the converging vision of BRI and the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU): a single, integrated Eurasian space.
Nazarbayev sees the integration of the Central Asian “stans” with Russia and with Turkic-speaking countries, including of course Turkey, as the foundation for his concept of Greater Eurasia.
The inevitable corollary is that the Atlanticist order – as well as the Anglo-American predominance in international relations – is waning, and certainly does not suit Asia and Eurasia. A consensus is forming across many key latitudes that the driving force for the reboot of the global economy post-Covid-19 – and even a new paradigm – will come from Asia.
In parallel, Nazarbayev’s office make a crucial point: “A purely Asian or Eastern answer is unlikely to suit the collective West, which is also in search of optimal models of the world’s structure. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative clearly showed that Western countries are not psychologically ready to see China as a leader.”
Nur-sultan nonetheless remains convinced that the only possible solution would be exactly a new paradigm in international relations. Nazarbayev argues that the keys to solve the current turmoil are not located in Moscow, Beijing or Washington, but in a strategic transit node, like Kazakhstan, where the interests of all global players intersect.
Thus the push for Kazakhstan – one of the key crossroads between Europe and Asia, alongside Turkey and Iran – to become the optimal mediator allowing Greater Eurasia to flourish in practice. That is the uplifting option: otherwise, we seem condemned to live through another Cold War.
The far west of Kazakhstan is in Eastern Europe, east of the Ural Mountains. Its is 10% of its national territory. Kazakhstan is where Crimean Tatars and Volga Germans were deported. Russian is the official language, albeit, second language. Before the Russian Revolution, Kazakh were 99% illiterate. Inheriting Soviet infrastructure, Kazakhstan has approximately 150 universities and institutes of higher learning.
Kazakhstan has two official languages, Kazakh and Russian. By law, the schools teach those plus English. A substantial (younger) fraction of the population is now tri-lingual. Almaty, the largest city, is in the south east of the country. It was the capitol. It had a majority Russian population until recently, as it was a Soviet technology and manufacturing center. Sci-Hub started in Almaty.
The new President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has shown less neutrality and more lean toward Putin and Russia. Perhaps, he has a pulse on the present flow of power that he senses the Kremlin and Russian Federation is accruing.
With Putin in power for many more years, and with the military strength of Russia, as well as the central role Russia plays in nuclear power/uranium, natural gas and oil, Kazakhstan has all its interests aligned in these sectors. What is good geopolitically for Russia is good for Kazakhstan. While the US was the unipolar power, it made sense for Kazakhstan to be open to the USA. That dynamic is dying.
However, Central Asia will become the North Africa or Middle East quickly if Russia is not dominant. The US has sent 15,000 ISIS fighters to destabilize Tajikistan and is working hard with AQ forces to destabilize Iran. It already has terrorist proxies stirring trouble in Xinjiang, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Russia is the key to quelling all these hotspots in Eurasia.
The US will never allow BRI to proceed smoothly. Though there is a large role for mediation among these Eurasian nations, the near-term requires security coordination. SCO may be able to provide some coordinated efforts.But pure regional hegemonic power that only Russia can provide must be used.
The US Pivot to Asia was more than containment of China along its coast. The US intends to create chaos as its contribution to Eurasia. Just like that is all it ever brought as ME hegemon—chaos, death and destruction.
With footprints in Korea, Afghanistan and ‘hopefully’ Kazakhstan, the US intends to disrupt Eurasian Integration and development.
The secret for Greater Eurasia is to deal a military defeat to the US. We have plenty of lessons from history of what the US intends to do, is doing and will continue to do to kill Eurasia.
Well said Larch. Without Russia being dominant, the US would swiftly turn everything topsy-turvy.
Things are going pretty well for the US. The Anglosphere has dropped all pretence and is now confronting China in earnest. And now India is onboard for the take down of China, too. The future does not look promising for Eurasian Integration.
“Things are going pretty well for the US.”
What planet are YOU on???
Realize that scores of millions of formerly complacent, fat dumb and happy Americans are increasingly alarmed.
And not everyone in the US is on board with Zbiggy’s Grand Chessboard British Empire “Great Game” paradigm….as the way out of their unease.
Sufficient opposition to the globalists, N.A.T.O. etc CAN change the paradigm. In fact it IS changing.
To keep it changing, never say “never”……and always look for flanking opportunities….not to ambush some other nation also striving for sovereignty….and development… and give them a thrashing …and rob them of their belongings (natural resources, creative productive potential, sovereignty..their very future..)..but to recruit them…Americans ALSO….. into envisioning a less stupid paradigm than assuming the Eternal Division of Humanity (whose great majority of members exist in Eurasia) for the benefit, control and entertainment of a tiny class of globalist oligarchs.
Oligarchs….currently visibly committed to destruction….not just of BRi and Eurasia but also of the United States.
Millions of American citizens are finally waking up to the reality of their internal enemy and its MSM Megaphone…..and tuning it out……and the more astute among them can even grasp the reality that there may be a better way than to continue to play the role of the stupid sacrificial pawns of the Empire.
When more significant portions of the populations of divided humanity reject the Imperial premises of Geopolitics……..the paradigm of eternally stupid mud-wrestling in the Imperial Arena CAN end.
Not easy, but necessary, in spite of Gerry’s fatalistic forebodings.
And necessity is the Mother of Invention.
I’m not sure what you’re talking about but it should be quite clear for all to see that China is in a pretty difficult situation at the moment. Public opinion of China in the US and the Anglosphere more broadly is at an all time low, regardless of whether the people are woke to the globalists or not. Frankly, I doubt people even think of China as a defender against the globalist agenda and for them it’s all about preventing an evil, authoritarian, and non-white country from ending the hegemony of the Anglosphere. Even Russia may not be all too pleased with China right now in light of recent reports of a Russian professor having passed onto the Chinese classified information on submarine technology.
China is not in a difficult situation, it is the US that is in a difficult situation because of “Made in China 2025”, the US is falling behind China in most technical advances and it is only going to get worse.
Russia needs to set up joint businesses with Kazakhstan in order to win the trust of its people. Last time Russia put forward their integration plans, the Kazakh govt. and the people opposed. Hopefully, the new Kazakh president will work more closely with Russia than the former.
Here’s an interesting conclusion to this new occultism megalopolis Astana, Kazak.
As members of the world elite are fulfilling the conditions required to unite the world into a single government, they are scattering all over the world symbols of their power. The fact that the general population has no idea what those structures represent is exactly the reason why their plans go forward unquestioned and unnoticed. But those plans have been here for ages now. Manley P. Hall wrote in 1918:
“When the mob governs, man is ruled by ignorance; when the church governs, he is ruled by superstition; and when the state governs, he is ruled by fear. Before men can live together in harmony and understanding, ignorance must be transmuted into wisdom, superstition into an illuminated faith, and fear into love”
Mob is equal to democracy, church is equal to religion and state is equal to countries. In other words, before men can live in harmony, we have to abolish democracy (because the mass is too dumb), religions (because they are superstitions) and states (because we need one-world government). He continues:
“The perfect government of the earth must be patterned eventually after that divine government by which the universe is ordered. In that day when perfect order is reestablished, with peace universal and good triumphant, men will no longer seek for happiness, for they shal find it welling up within themselves”
Sound good doesn’t it? Only one catch. When this will happen, most of the world population will be dead. On that note, have a nice day.
“before men can live in harmony, we have to abolish democracy … RELIGIONS … and states …”. “The perfect government of the earth must be patterned eventually after that DIVINE government by which the universe is ordered.”
It is not unusual, it is almost de rigeur, to denounce religion, then recommend a government based on faith in some sort of transendent truth.
An amazing place.
Has great role to play.
One of the major problems for Kazakstan is climate change. Historically warm dry sukhovay winds every four years, as well as early frost, created uncertainty for agriculture. Cross border water issues have caused regional problems which will increase as population increases. Tien Shen and Altai Mts are in China which supply water to rivers flowing northwest but China needs the water as well and discussion of damming the Ob and turning the water south was discussed at one time but am not sure where that is now
Yes and I suppose its also where Genghis Khan once had his HQ.
May Kazakhstan play a central role in a stable Central Asia, and may it continue to attract attention as a rich independent culture, with the punch of a Gennady Golovkin and the sweet voice of a Dimash Kudaibergen.
Dear Pepe – I hope you manage to read these and suchlike comments re your work. I believe you’ve hit the mark. Or at least I’ve come to the view that Nur Sultan will very likely become the next site for whatever institution succeeds the United Nations presently situated on Manhattan Island. And as you’ve spent much of your professional life reporting to us, such an institution is presently coming about; it’s in the works and it’s Eurasian. This prospect became evident as a real possibility to me as we witnessed Russian military action and diplomacy take the lead in cleaning up the mess in Syria while engaging it’s old rival and primary Nato bastion, Turkey. That the crucial negotiations occurred in Kazakistan speaks loudly for the wisdom of that country’s political leadership. Your comments concerning Nazarbayev’s investment in soft power in preference to negotiating the values of his nuclear arsenal were of much interest. Erdogon likes to think that he is the Lord of the Turks. But I wonder if this is really so. It appears to me that this fellow Nazarbayev had ideas of his own and his successor is reeling in one of the big fish formerly a prime asset of the enemy. Kazak neutrality resonates nicely with Russian neutrality. Russian diplomacy under Putin and his minister Lavrov has been and remains remarkable. They are on good terms with nearly everybody, not least the Israelis (how many trips to Moscow in 2018 for Bibi?). Even the Saudis talk of buying the S400. Russian trustworthiness has slowly been built up over the decades while America heedlessly squandered it’s political capital with one juvenile stunt after another. Back in the 70s, Kissinger worked to set America on the three legs of it’s international power: food exports, energy dominance, and high tech weapons sales. Consider the present. Who now leads the world in grain sales, the provision of hydrocarbon and nuclear energy, and sophisticated weaponry? On top of these quite solid and necessary assets Russian political leadership and diplomacy is, in partnership with China, bringing a new world into existence. It isn’t really new. The commitment of both Russian and Chinese leaderships is exactly what it was all along with the UN: political sovereignty and non interference in the affairs of other states but mediated and thus moderated by international agreements arrived at on a basis of freedom and at least formal equality. In other words, the UN. Obviously, it is America and the leashed animals of a once-upon-a-time civilisation in Europe that has made a mockery of what was once a powerful and victorious alliance over the Axis powers. But however that may be this new order really is shaping up and the land powers of Asia are very much at the heart of things. Manhattan won’t do. The next capital of world diplomacy will be in the heart of Asia. Consider the cities of the region and just draw a red line under one of the names. I believe that is actually happening as we discuss these things. Please continue your excellent work; I always look forwards to reading your reports. Thank you, Kevin Frost, Tasmania, Aus.
If they are so neutral and have not been infested by the western hegemonic disease, why do they host a U.S. military biological weapons research lab?
The empire of evil has no intention of, nor will it ever play nice. Cooperation, diplomacy is utterly foreign to this beast.
The proposal of Nur Sultan as a regional diplomatic capital reminds me of Bolivar callling for an Amphictyonic Congress in Panamá. The American continent wasn’t smart enough to realize the value of a place to discuss their problems, half way from all centers of power. I hope Eurasia does.
Historically, balancing “the interests of all global players” is a gargantuan challenge, that in the last hundreds years has failed twice, resulting in two world wars. Failure a third time will mean nuclear war, not another Cold War.
Peter, have you read A Century of War, by Wm.Engdahl? Every major war of the last 120 years was caused by Anglo Zio Capitalists, ruthless bandits out to plunder the resources of the world by fraud or by force. The AZC are certainly not statesmen “interested in balancing the interests of all global players”. That concept comes from a real statesman of our time: from President Putin — whom the Anglo Zio Capitalists curse daily for foiling their bloodstained rape attempts in the Crimea, in the Middle East and in Venezuela, and now probably in Libya as well.
1899 — AZC London rape the Free Afrikaaner Republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. Vast resources stolen: Gold, Diamonds, Minerals, Agricultural Land.
1914 — AZC London and Paris declare war on Germany, starting with sneak attack on Germany’s ally the Turkish Empire. Vast resources stolen: Black Gold, Land.
1923 to 1938 — AZC London, Paris and Washington finance fascist Europe (Mussolini, Franco and Hitler) as ‘our bulwark against Communism’. The military-industrial complex of the AZC (Ford, Dupont, Dow) arm Nazi Germany to the teeth, and AZC financiers (including the Bush family, who still love The New World Order) set up the Bank of International Settlements on the German / Swiss border to transfer that finance in WW2. Britain and France persuade Poland to reject Stalin’s offer of an Anti-Fascist Front, and join forces with Nazi Germany in the dismemberment of CzeskoSlovakia (read The Hitler – Chamberlain Collusion, by Finkel and Leibovitz). Result: WW2 with 50 million dead.
Second half of 20th Century: AZC resource wars in Congo, Southern Africa, Latin America and a dismembered YugoSlavia. Plus wars of Anti-Communist ideology by AZC against Greece, Yugoslavia, Southern Africa, Cuba, Latin America, China, Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia. An estimated 20 million dead.
2000 to 2020: AZC resource wars against Iraq (oil, gold and banking system), Afghanistan (opium and minerals), Sudan (oil), Libya (oil, water, gold and banking system), Syria (Oil, water and Land for Israel, plus a gas pipeline for two AZC hydrocarbon companies namely, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sheikdom of Kuwait) and Venezuela (combined ops: Oil Theft plus Anti-Communist Crusade). Body count at least 2 million, more likely 4 million, and counting.
Dr. Maroudas sums up the crimes of AngloZios quite well. I might just add the vassalage of Europe by the AnglZio Empire, both through direct occupation (Germany, Poland) and through nuke and non-nuke bases and forward prepositioned army stocks in Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, etc. each of them vying for the title of Empire’s Most Faithful Vassal. One could postulate that the above list of AngloZio crimes would have been impossible, should the Europeans not have thrown themselves for the feet of their masters.
I read Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard about 10 years after it was published. In it he lays out the course for what happened in the decade after I read it: the expansion of NATO into the territory of
The Warsaw Pact and then into former SSRs; NATO stoking of resentment in those territories and posting nukes there; the expansion of Russian, Iranian and Turkish influence into Central Asia leading to tension and the rising importance of Ukraine and Kazakhstan as arenas for this competition. There were many things Brzezinski missed like the resurgence of Russia and China as world powers, but as biased and blinkered as the author may have been, Pepe’s article reminded me that that world manager’s book is worth at least a cursory read
Kazakhstan have high level administrative skills. Nazarbayev will achieve a great deal under the radar so-to-speak. He is a big player.
I think that this article is at least 5 years behind time. Asia is way past philosophising but now into the hard sinews of implementation. The bottom-line is jobs and economic uplift for the whole of Asia-Africa and to a lesser extent (because of the on-going Operation Condor by the US), Latin America. Europe being just a peninsula in the north-west of Asia.
Let nations like Kazakhstan continue to lead in the verbiage like greater Turks integration and Ottoman revival (Turkey), Eurasia (Russia), Hindutva (India). These are all aspirational opiates, sedative and seductive verbiage and will remain as such without the means to implement. In the end it is economic capability protected by hard military power that counts. And the means to spread economic capability and its benefits around is the BRI.
All others are just so much hot-air.
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