Kazakhstan may hold the secret for Greater Eurasia: Pepe Escobar
Kazakhstan may hold the secret for Greater Eurasia: Pepe Escobar via The Saker
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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.