22 November 2019

The Astana Club- Four initiatives for four international security issues

Cristian Eremia

“Greater Eurasia 2027- Confrontation or Partnership?” Strategic communication and global cooperation- the only viable alternative to economic, political and military confrontations. New realities and new rules for the game may emerge in the wider Euro-Asian space! Rethinking a global intercontinental security architecture for Greater Eurasia. Creating a global alliance for nuclear weapons’ nonproliferation. EU-EEU: the necessity of a complex dialogue.

Image source: Mediafax

The fifth reunion of the “Astana Club”, a platform for political and analytical debates on international security issues- developed in the Kazakh capital, Nur Sultan, on November 11th, had a large theme: “Greater Eurasia – 2027: Towards a new architecture of global cooperation”. The regional interests of the represented political leaders and analytical communities have focused the debates on extremely serious security issues inside the Euro-Asian space and the great neighborhood surrounding this space.

However, the first leader and president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has directed the debates on global security vectors that should bring, for the first time ever, the global powers at the same table, in order to create a better and safer world. Within the conference, it was also approached a large series of issues, including the US-China confrontation, the nuclear disarmament or regulation ideas for East Ukraine conflict.

Fundamental threats against Euro-Asian security

The main security threats and risks identified by the Astana Club for 2020 are mostly related to developing new trade wars and launching a new global arms race, which involves, obviously, the “Greater Eurasia”.  We must bear in mind that Astana’s Club visions on the international relations systems and the global security are, in depth, close or complementary, but, however, not divergent comparing to the ones promoted by the integrationist directions controlled by Moscow, meaning the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Independent States Community (ISC) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

It is interesting to present the full list of the ten risks and threats against international security for 2020, identified at the recent international conference organized by the Astana Club. The list includes the following:

-Global economic recession, to start by the beginning of 2020;

-Aftershocks of the 2020 US Presidential Election;

-Escalation of the US-China confrontation;

-A new race of nuclear missile weapons;

-Exacerbation of the battle for technological dominance;

-Military escalation of the conflict around Iran;

-Nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula;

-A new wave of terrorism;

-Aggressive nationalism and populism;

-Large-scale problems caused by climate change;

However, the most important threats against Greater Eurasia’s security speculated for 2019, by the same club, were the multidimensional confrontation between US and China, trade wars, the dangerous reactivation of regional conflicts, the emergence of a new global arms race, the escalation of environment issues (mostly water supply security) and the possibility of technogenic disasters.  Therefore, we can conclude that Astana’s Club provisions are still focusing on possible tendencies to affect the international security, such as trade wars, US-China difficult relations, the international arms race and environment issues.

In contrast to and within the background of ISC, EEU and CSTO, we must mention that Russia maintains a true anti-American speech, availability for escalation measures of an arms race and crises, but also permanent attempts to convince the ISC members- including Kazakhstan, which has an independent foreign policy, over the unpreceded pejoration of regional security, arguments that could easily impose the coordination development between this organization’s members  for foreign policy and international security. Russia is closely watching the place US will install new missiles, “it feels that the Russian and allied territory is obviously targeted by American missiles”, which would worsen even more the global security. All of these plus the “US unpredictability” on the START 3 Treaty, have pushed Russia, according to Putin, towards a new arms race. In fact, Moscow has recently ensured the ISC, CSTO and EEU members that it is ready to reestablish the force balance and strategic stability, including in nuclear triad field and space’s militarization.

The entire philosophy of the Astana Club starts from the estimation and premise that, considering the geography of the most important global conflictual centers[1], each expert can easily conclude that most of the current conflict are focused inside or around the Greater Eurasia. Concretely, we are talking about all the elements that could undermine the global strategic stability. On the other hand, the geographic element would become, at least from a Russian and Central-Asian perspective, the center of global development, especially thanks to China’s economic growth[2], which would have got this space out of a “dormant condition, which lasted more than one hundred years”. Additionally, the Club insists on the importance of the multilateral political dialogue to solve the global issues, at least the most important ones. The strategic communication and global cooperation is seen as the “only viable alternative to the economic, political and military confrontation”, because these are the tools that can create new realities for the international situation and new game rules in the wider Euro-Asian space or worldwide.

To that end, it was underlined ISC states’ effort, which have recently adopted the “Declaration on strategic economic cooperation”, to eliminate trade borders, the development of a multilateral cooperation in innovation and high technology, industrial production, the joint establishment of transport infrastructure, the telecommunication networks, respectively the cooperation in energy security. An extremely special element is the insistence wherewith they are working on coordinating the monetary policies and the provision of currency risks by the governance, in order to avoid the emergence of trade wars and the decrease of economic competitiveness. Moreover, they are insisting for all initiatives which had had positive results to be also extended within EEU.

Four initiatives for four critical global security issues

One of forum’s main conclusions is that global economy is close to an imminent economic crisis. The global economic increase rhythm is meeting involution and it has a negative effect on the global trade. The level of global public debts is already twice bigger than before the economic-financial crisis initiated in 2007, reaching 80% of the global GDP.

Rivalries and the competition between the big international powers has reached a new alarming level. The economic sanctions and trade wars have become something usual in the US-China relations. The aggressive rhetoric and sections have also become a characteristic of the Russian - West relations. The lack of mutual trust is slowly closing the strategic political communication lines and it is worsening the confrontations between the main powers, which is seriously decreasing any initiative or effort to reestablish the strategic stability.

From an ISC and CSTO perspective, the collapse of INF Treaty on medium and short range of action missile elimination was a serious hit for the Euro-Asian security system. The geopolitical confrontations of the super-powers is trancing the possession of advance technologies (the example was the situation created regarding the Huawei Chinese company), that may affect the global development of the new technologies and states’ access to them, leading to serious regresses for the industrial production and the international trade.

In order to cool down the global tensions within the international relations, the Kazakh leader has promoted some daring initiatives which are, firstly, related to international security.

Firstly, the necessity to rethink the main approaches for the establishment of an intercontinental security architecture. Therefore, it would be necessary the “establishment of a Euro-Asian security model, to combine the regional European and Asian mechanisms”. The starting point would be a balanced and effective approach, by combining values, concepts and principles that are governing OSCE and the Conference on joint actions and measures to strengthen trust in Asia. These organizations’ joint efforts would ensure the global security for the Greater Eurasia.

Secondly, it was underlined the necessity to continue to “build a world without nuclear weapons, which is also the reason why it was promoted the establishment of a global alliance of political leaders, diplomatic and researchers to work together for the nuclear weapons’ nonproliferation. It is also considered that it should be restarted, urgently, the organization, every two years, of a global summit on nuclear security. This type of summit would adopt, together with SC of UN, or separately, a series of measures to sanction the irresponsible states, which are withdrawing from nuclear disarmament international treaties.

As for solving the North Korea file, the Kazakh leader proposes, as only viable solution for the issue, for all UN’s SC members to give this country security provisions, this being the only type of process that would convince North Korea to cancel its nuclear program. The initiative should be completed with the establishment of a “Measures catalogue for Pyongyang and Seoul trust consolidation”, a step that would stabilize the security situation in the Korean Peninsula.

Not least, the Astana Club thinks that the lack of dialogue between EU and EEU is “absolutely unacceptable”. That’s why the Kazakh leader wants to develop a concrete dialogue between these two economic integration models and tendencies, proposing the introduction of a dialogue mechanism to include the organization of an annual summit of the European Commission chief and its EEU homologue. Nazarbayev says that it is impossible that certain circumstantial political disputes could, and still can, block a comprehensive dialogue between EU and EEU, “two organizations which are geographically and historically connected and that could complete each other”. There is also an “idyllic vision” of EEU here to stimulate the establishment of Greater Eurasia, which would involve the development of a cooperation between EU, EEU, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and ASEAN. These elements were in the center of a special “EU-Greater Eurasia: cooperation and development vectors” special session.

The Astana Club is a strategic analytical platform, founded in 2015 by the Kazakh president Nazarbayev, composed by prestigious politicians and diplomats, important representatives of famous analytical and research centers from 27 states, including Russia, US, China, Great Britain and other Central and Southeast Asia, Europe and Middle East. The club is already enlisted in the international network for political, diplomatic and analytical dialogue on global security, focusing on debating the main tendencies impacting the “mega-continent Eurasia”, as described by the Astana Club founders.

The Astana Club reunions work following the well-known rules of Chantham House- Club’s member organization. Most part of the debates are private. For example, the “key” plenary session of the event was also the only one available for the media. That’s because the 2019 international events have proved that Club’s illusions that things will get better was consumed. The older conflicts did not only restart, but there are also new ones, new extremely dangerous geopolitical confrontations for the international system, which have worsen the trust atmosphere and the global cooperation climate as well.

Translated by Andreea Soare

[1] We are, indeed, talking about trade wards, the economic sanctions and counter-sanctions, military conflicts, major geopolitical confrontations, failed mutual trust and control systems on nuclear proliferation and arsenals.

[2] According to estimations of the Russian research centers, in 2019, China’s GDP will overcome, for the first time ever, the amount of $14 trillion, which represents two thirds of the American economic indicator.