The road toward Greater Eurasia

By Pepe Escobar, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan – Posted with permission

Kazakhstan’s first president has road map for 21st century: global alliance of leaders for nuclear-free world

Photo: Asia Times

The Astana Club is one of the most crucial annual meetings in Eurasia, alongside the Boao forum in China and the Valdai discussions in Russia. China, Russia and Kazakhstan are all at the forefront of Eurasia integration. No wonder, then, that the 5th meeting of the Astana Club had to focus on Greater Eurasia – synonymous, it may be hoped, with a “new architecture of global cooperation.”

Astana Club congregates a fascinating mix of Eurasia-wide notables with Europeans and Americans. Virtually all relevant shades of the geopolitical spectrum are represented. Panels are very well structured (I moderated two of them). Discussions are frank and non-denial denials are heavily discouraged. Here is just a taste of what was discussed in Nur-Sultan, under the spectacular shallow dome designed by Norman Foster.

Great stabilizer

Vladimir Yakunin, chairman of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Moscow, bets that China is “ready to prepare Eurasia for the future” even while there’s “no hint it will be treated by the West in a positive way.” Yakunin sees the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative, as a “civilizational dialogue basis for China” even as Russia continues to assert itself again as a global power.

Wang Huiyao, from the Center for China and Globalization and a counselor of China’s State Council, sees China as “the biggest stabilizer” in international relations and trade as “the biggest mechanism for prosperity,” as demonstrated once again at the latest Shanghai Expo.

Senior Pakistani diplomat Iftekhar Chowdury, now at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, argues that the “liberal world order is not universal”; now it all comes down to “liberal capitalism against China.” Huiyao, for his part, is not fazed: he stresses that China already sees a “Eurasia 3D” as a new negotiation platform.

Huiyao points out how the “wrong methodology” is being applied as a “stabilizer of the world economy.” He emphasizes the role of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank  and especially Belt & Road as “a new impetus for developing the world in the next decades,” drawing on “Chinese culture, tradition, values” – plus a hybrid economy not only featuring state-owned enterprises. Belt & Road, he insists, is a “real international development plan.” In contrast, the great danger is “unilateralism”: “Do we have only one form of history?”

Jacob Frenkel, Chairman of JP Morgan International, clear-headed and didactic unlike many bankers, actually quotes from a Chinese proverb: “The honey is sweet, but the bee stings.” He emphasizes that “words matter. When you use ‘war’ in commerce, there are consequences” – especially when there are “millions of boats” navigating “the same ocean.”

Wang lends backing to Frenkel when he underlines the unintended consequences for third countries from the US-China trade war. Frenkel sees tariffs as “the wrong instruments” and stresses that businessmen “don’t believe in IMF models.” Boris Tadic, former President of Serbia, concentrates on how “arrogant big powers are ignoring smaller countries.”

The redoubtable Li Wei, President of the Development Research Center of the State Council Chair and a sterling negotiator, stresses that under serious “anti-globalist tendencies,” the need is for “new principles of coexistence.” China and the US should “stop exchanging punches; there have been 13 meetings to discuss the trade war.” What’s needed, says Li, in a new first stage of discussion, is for Xi and Trump to sign a memorandum of understanding.

Reacting to the possibility of China and the US signing protocols, Yakunin has to come back to his main point: “The US is not willing to see China transform itself into a great power.”

Li, unfazed, has to mention that Xi Jinping actually launched Belt & Road in Kazakhstan – at the nearby Nazarbayev University, in 2013. He’s convinced that the initiative is capable of “fully answering all challenges of the present historical moment.”

From MAD to SAD

Terje Todd-Larsen, former Under Secretary General of the UN and President of the International Peace Institute, laments that with the multilateral system weakened, and no multilateral organization encompassing the Middle East and Northern Africa, there is no table capable anywhere of congregating Arabs, Iran, Israel and Turkey. The best hope lies with Kazakhstan – and there are precedents already, with Nur-Sultan hosting the Astana process for Syria.

On the nuclear weapons front, Yakunin notes how nations that subscribe to the Non Proliferation Treaty actually now expect a “formal affirmation they won’t be threatened.” He sees “lack of trust” as the greatest threat to the NPT: “The P5 members of the NPT did not live up to their promises.”

The legendary Mohamed El Baradei, former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, lays down the choice in stark terms: It’s either “maximum pressure, regime change and sanctions” or “dialogue, equity, cooperation, respect.” He stresses that “International institutions can’t deal with the world today – it’s way beyond them.” And the elephant in the room is, of course, nuclear weapons: “We seem frozen in place.”

El Baradei refutes the notion of the nuclear club as a model: “What is the logic and moral justification? This is an unsustainable regime.” On nuclear disarmament, it’s the nuclear states that have to start a new era. For the moment, what’s left is “to salvage the remains of nuclear arms control. We’ve gone from MAD to SAD – self-assured destruction.”

Back on the ground level, Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute introduces lethal autonomous weapons systems – as in robots with a very high degree of autonomy – into the conversation. Not that these entities would prevent, for instance, cyber-attacks, which “can be counter-productive and self-destructive, because there will be a counter-strike.”

Global alliance

The undisputed star of the show at the Astana Club is really Kazakh First President Nazarbayev. There’s a feeling among seasoned diplomats and analysts that when the history of Greater Eurasia is written, Nazarbayev will be on the front page. Global turmoil may not favor it too much at the moment, but as the Russians stress, the Eurasian Economic Union, for instance, is bound to survive sanctions and the trade war, and 2025 offers a tantalizing glimpse of the future via open market for gas and transportation. The EU and the EAEU have complementary economics, and Russia can play a major role.

Nazarbayev quotes from washed up theorist Francis Fukuyama to stress that “only three decades later,” his “anticipation did not come true.” He is keen to “critically reassess” the Eurasian model of security, now combining Europe and Asia, as most experts who prepared a detailed report on the Top Ten risks for Eurasia in 2020 agree.

Nazarbayev does have a road map for peace in the 21st century, via a manifesto he presented at the UN. That would be constituted as a global alliance of leaders for a nuclear-free world – complete with global summits dedicated to nuclear security. He can speak like that with the “moral right” of having closed one of the world’s major nuclear arsenals – Kazakhstan’s.

What’s key as much for Nazarbayev as for Xi and Putin is that Belt & Road, the Eurasian Economic Union, the European Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nation – all these initiatives and institutions – should be on overdrive, together, creating multiple negotiation tracks, all geared towards Greater Eurasia. And what better platform to advance it, conceptually, than the Astana Club?

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  1. Excellent SitRep from Pepe. Thank you.

    As for nuclear threats? The US has cultivated a new nuclear club member, North Korea. This should not have happened, but hegemony has its limits. Wanting to keep China out of the situation (totally naive and stupid, both at the same time), the US has seen North Korea went on its own path and defied everyone.

    The retreat of the US from the Nuclear Treaties, under Trump’s marching orders, that have kept the world safe from disaster now has multiplied the threat to the US.

    Russia and China are ‘weaponing up’ to keep the US Hegemon in check. China used to have but 250 second strike nukes. They now likely have produced 3-4x the warheads under the threats from US, NATO warmongers and Sinophobes who intend to “contain” China.

    Until the stark reality of utter destruction is faced by the US think tanks, Pentagon and political leader class, the Russians and Chinese will continue to outpace the Hegemon in nuclear and non-nuclear tactical and strategic weapons, hypersonic missiles and lasers (likely from Space).

    Only negotiation and new treaties can stop the disadvantage the US faces. The path they are on is moronic. But this is the age of morons, especially the Exceptional, Full Global Dominance kind.

    Shortly, they will force Iran and Turkey and Saudi Arabia to get nukes. Destabilizing the MENA has been as counter-productive to reducing threats to America as anything otherwise imaginable.

    And all these new nuclear club entrants will be shielded behind Russian S-400s. Only the US and its vassals and proxies won’t have protection. It is quite ironic that the Hegemon cannot protect itself or anyone else (as Israel has discovered). Ironic and Karmic.

  2. The only reason that the EU didnt work was because it wasn’t big enough. Until the whole world is under the total control nothing will work. This is the globalists argument. Unite around a non nuclear world! Who would disagree with ending nuclear weapons? As for everything else, just sign your life, rights, and property away on the dotted line! No need for nukes when one person owns and controls everything!

    As for peace? I wish!!! But, the facts do not support the thesis, since wars have occured long before nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons were foolishly developed to end all wars!

    Any more bright ideas from Davos, the Bildebergs or One Belt One Road?

    • I see you are quite confused, Andrea.

      Lumping OBOR in with EU, DAVOS, Bilderbergers etc may “feel” emotionally right to you….but that feeling is unfortunately unhinged from fact and reason….and has been manipulated in ways you are evidently unconscious of………. to be generous to your motivations.

      For example:

      The purpose of western sponsored terrorism is to side track and destroy OBOR and Eurasian Integration, in order to maintain “Geopolitics”….the “Great Game” of Divide and Conquer. Don’t throw in your lot with them….and with NATO’s Club of Rome …to cling to that which you may be nostalgic for: The Same Old, Same Old………… World of Masters and Slaves.

      Raising the bulk of humanity to greater capacity economically, culturally, scientifically would also benefit us in the western hemisphere by enabling the next higher level economic platform for humanity as a whole.

      And yes, that IS a much, much better way to go than Empire manipulated mass homicide….and looting of the 99.99% for the Ego Gratification of the 0.01%

      I can see we’ll need to work this through, over time.

      Like everything of any lasting value, that will require work……………….and patience to comprehend, gain appreciation for, and participate in, as the author has done….in breadth and depth.

  3. Those are awfully big words for arch-cuck Tadić, a western servitor under whose government the army was basically transformed into a hunting club. Now that he’s off the leash he seeks a new master?

    Nursultan has a high chance of being the dude on history book covers. One of the most masterful politicians of our times, along with Lee Kuan Yew.

    But I don’t believe the nuclear proliferation part will succeed. Countries are slowly realizing that the only guarantor of independence is nuclear weapons. Instead, we’ll start seeing more and more efforts to make better air defenses and missile shields to neutralize that threat. The next “big problem” will probably be biological superweapons, or if something unexpected happens, antimatter bombs

  4. With the Belt and Road, this is seen by all as an altruistic move by China to facilitate world trade and support both 1st & 3rd world countries? Despite 3rd world countries often taking on heavy infrastructure debt loads (like IMF) the rewards will more than make up for it? The average person will benefit as opposed to oligarchs?

    It isn’t about China decoupling from the US market and thus preparing a worldwide trade network to simply move its goods and influence? China imports food & raw materials from numerous countries for its factories, energy and high tech weaponry from Russia, what does it import from the rest of the world? It doesn’t still have the bureaucratic import barriers that make selling things not made there very very difficult?

    Has anyone actually looked at what the trade movements are likely to be, winners and losers for trade imbalances? I get that this is a Russian blog and that this will work out well for Russia as well. But I’m struggling to see how the majority of the planet will in any way benefit.

    Finally, Russia and China, largely out of necessity currently have a very close relationship. China has an enormous army and is gradually upgrading to equip it with high tech weaponry. No one sees any potential problems here for Russia in the future when the current friendly leaders are no longer in charge? After WW2 the US was largely seen as a powerful force for good in the world, however that gradually degenerated to the criminals that run it now, this could never happen to China, a future superpower that shares a border?

    • It isn’t about China decoupling from the US market and thus preparing a worldwide trade network to simply move its goods and influence?

      The decoupling occurred after the trade network was began and was initiated by the US.

      ‘But I’m struggling to see how the majority of the planet will in any way benefit.’

      By not having US wars of aggression? By not having unlimited mass immigration? By not having a failing printing press empire that destroys the host county?

        • Remarkably, the Chinese govt has succeeded in evoking a Pollyanna-like naïveté among western intellectuals. It reminds me of the blowback on McCarthy as he tried to expose the communist take over going on in the U.S. He was made to look like a doddering old fool at the time, but does anyone here doubt who has taken over US govt officials, Hollywood, and the large media companies during the last 50 years?

          Now, many commenters here decry the evils of the U.S. govt, while somehow ignoring who guided Mao behind the scenes as he massacred tens of millions of his own people. Same philosophy, same ruthlessness, same people. Yet a giant head of Mao was erected in Changsha for the masses to gaze at on their Sunday strolls. Best selling business books in China? Those are about how to use the secrets of the Talmud in order for your business to succeed. I thought to post a link about this as I’m sure many here are unaware, but a quick search revealed it is published widely and easy to find.

          Though I am not a fan of Maya Angelou, this quotation attributed to her is useful: “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” The Chinese govt is showing itself over and over again, yet so many commenters here (as well as Pepe) refuse to see. China is too hungry, both practically and metaphorically, to behave in any way we would call good. The US is the big bully these days, but how does that make it okay for China to claim ownership of international waters close to a host of other countries? Oh, but those countries have signed on to the OBOR, they say. Do you really think the small countries impacted by China’s ocean grab perceive themselves as having any choice?

          Lastly, I do not think the “friendship” between China and Russia can or will be lasting. At the moment, it is expedient and even necessary in the face of the fading monopolar system. But Russia is largely a Christian country, while China espouses communist values from a govt perspective even if they portray capitalism at some other levels. Try to raise a voice against the govt in China. Try to even practice a religion. Only state-sanctioned (that is, state created and named) Taoist masters are allowed. Same for other religions or philosophies. The western intellectuals promoting China are foolish in the extreme.

          China is already trying to censor western institutions (e.g. sports). Do you think you can be an independent thinker or even religious believer in a China-dominated world? The answer is simply, no, and for this reason both westerners and Russians will never be able live with an increasingly powerful China unless powerful borders are instituted with freedoms on one side and repression on the other. Does that sound like OBOR?

          • Yes. I am truly baffled by this psuedo-intellectual argument for supporting globalism and Xi. Xi is a meglomaniac, far more so than any president in U.S. history. He is an extremely dangerous man, and I realize that the U.S. government has a terrible and bloody history, but I also realize that the Chinese have an even more brutal and bloody history than the U.S.

          • Mao did not ‘massacre tens of millions of his own people’. That is Sinophobic agit-prop. Under Mao Chinese life expectancy increased from less than forty to nearly seventy, the fastest and greatest such leap in history, in the world’s largest population, and that is a fact.

            • Mulga,
              In the Great Leap Forward, 45 million Chinese died. Mao transformed society from an agrarian economy to a socialsit collectivist industrialist society. There were also enormous surplusses of food during this time. Farmers had food in town Silos, and the people in those towns died of starvation because the communist party insisted on beingbin charge of distribution, they just didn’t do the distributing part, so millions died.

  5. Thank you Pepe, as always. While it’s tempting to view the emergent Eurasian world order as something new I rather think that what Eurasian leaders are doing is adhering to the UN version of the Westphalian sovereign states system moderated by piecemeal developments of international law as mandated under UN auspices. Clearly, this is done in the face of Nato subversion of international law, suitably termed under the doublespeak phrase: ‘rules based international order’. The Westphalian system arose to replace the dual authority of the Roman pontiffs in league with the Habsburg emperors. Since the mid 17th century it has had to meet the hegemonic challenges of Louis XIV, Napoleon, and the Third Reich. Nato led by America is essentially a Forth Reich and thus a mortal threat to the system of sovereign states system. Presently the UN headquarters is located in NYC. I’d wager that the successor institution might well be located in Astana, which has already made it’s mark as a key site for Eurasian diplomatic engagements. Any thoughts?

    • The countries of the world have to hope that the Hegemon will step back. However war making is intrinsic to the entire hegemonic system. We are lucky that Trump is arrayed against the “deep state” (at least ostensibly). This has permitted us to see that even the President has no real control over the war making.

      There is no face, no name on the system of war. There is no one to negotiate with. There is only an impersonal process of perpetual growth and endless war.

      The rest of the world slowly aggregates into another military power, finally too powerful for the US Hegemon to subdue. The existence of that fact will cause the Hegemon to collapse. However, somewhere along the way we could lose the world.

  6. WoW! Pepe has been ‘traveling’!
    Give us more insider, sir Pepe! Make us more money! HA :D

    Still can’t get that Putin’s comment about the dollar out of my mind…
    hmmmm….. soon?

    p/s did turkey just field test s400? can somebody closer to the source confirm or deny this?!

    • Soon as with right now, he most likely meant the price of things in dollars, going up, so you will need more money(dollars) to do the same things as you commonly did, or ate, yesterday.