The following is an excerpt from “Kazakhstan holds the keys to a new geopolitical balance in Asia” by William W. Burke-White, Professor of Law, at The Hill:
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global geopolitics is shifting rapidly. While the U.S. successfully shaped a unified response to Russia’s aggression, it is overlooking a critical piece of a new geopolitical landscape: Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Kazakhstan’s summit meetings this month with China, Russia and the European Union underscore the urgency of a new U.S. strategy in the region.
The Central Asian countries wedged between Russia to the north and China to the east are critical balancers between the U.S., Europe, Russia and China. All but the U.S. have wooed Kazakhstan this month. Early in June, China’s Foreign Minister spent four days in the country planning a state visit for Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the fall. Sharing the stage in St. Petersburg with Russian President Vladimir Putin in mid-June, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev left a diplomatic opening, refusing to endorse Russia’s war in Ukraine. Last week’s meeting of the EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council in Luxembourg sought to deepen Kazakhstan’s connections to Europe.
A courtship for Kazakhstan has begun in earnest. Through the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Russia offers international security and domestic stability. In January 2022, at Kazakhstan’s invitation, Russia deployed troops to quell domestic unrest. China offers the country economic growth. Kazakh-Chinese trade increased at an annualized rate of 14.9 percent for the past 25 years. The Belt and Road Initiative will add over $25 billion to the Kazakh economy and reduce shipping times and costs.
In contrast, U.S. engagement has been uninspired. With the fall of the Soviet Union, U.S. diplomacy focused on nuclear security and economic reform. After 9/11, the U.S. sought intelligence and logistics support for the war on terrorism. Today the U.S. offers foreign assistance to a country rapidly becoming economically independent. The U.S. must act more decisively to build on Europe’s engagement and ensure Kazakhstan does not drift closer to China or back to Russia… .