Middle Powers take on the Great Powers in the Astana Forum

Omar Adan

Global Courant

At the Astana International Forum on June 8-9, Kazakhstan launched a new diplomatic initiative calling for dialogue between the Middle Powers as a way to “amplify voices for peace, progress and solidarity” at a time of heightened polarization and unprecedented geopolitical divisions around the world.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev keynote address the forum’s plenary session set the stage for the more than 4,000 participants when he said that “for the global (international) system to survive, it must work for all and promote peace and prosperity for the many rather than the few .”

His words reinforced his previous statements on the matter: “We all know that global peace and stability are currently threatened by tensions between major world powers.”

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It takes courage to say those words while the cameras of CNN and the British Broadcasting Corporation are rolling.

The forum’s agenda was wide-ranging, covering topics from food security, water management and capital flows to the role of the United Nations, economic integration and the need for the Middle Powers to embrace responsible statesmanship due to its absence elsewhere.

Measured by the scope of international media coverage, Kazakhstan has once again passed the goods and captured the attention of the international community in a time of crisis.

Presidents, prime ministers, academics and businessmen attended the forum. Common sense permeated the discussions, rather than the usual bombast common to so many other confabs.

While Eurasian integration was great, the need for a middle power agency in foreign affairs emerged as a crucial way to influence the great powers. There were even open calls for the resurrection of the Non-Aligned Movement, born at the 1955 Bandung Conference, or something like that.

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Not entirely unexpectedly, the audience then came to life Mulatu Teshomeformer president of Ethiopia, and Zeljka Cvijanovic, President of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointed out the dangers of foreign interference in their respective and/or neighboring countries.

For example, the Ethiopian Herald had an article titled “Pan-Africanism increases Africa’s global participation”, who reported what Teshome said: “External interference would fuel problems, and we do not want the situation of Yemen and Libya replicated in our region.”

On the sidelines of the forum, delegates with whom this writer spoke made it clear that the great powers should stop demanding that the middle powers take sides in their problems.

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One was reminded of what Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said not so long ago: “Europe needs to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but that the world’s problems are not the problems of be Europe.”

The primary focus of the forum emphasized that peace should be based on smart and respectful diplomatic engagement based on the founding principles of the United Nations rather than on ideologically driven one-manship, persistent neo-colonial attitudes or a preponderance of power in a struggle for limited natural resources in a fiercely competitive and unforgiving world.

Geopolitical ‘block’ mentality

Tokayev said: “We are witnessing the return of previous ‘block’ mentalities unseen in 30 years. The forces of division are not purely geopolitical. They are also motivated by economic undercurrents.

“Economic policy itself is being openly weaponized. These confrontations include sanctions and trade wars, targeted debt policies, reduced access or exclusion from financing and investment screening. Together, these factors are gradually undermining the foundations on which global peace and prosperity have rested over the past few decades: free trade, global investment, innovation and fair competition.”

Tokayev continued: “This (foreign policy approach) in turn fuels social unrest and divisions within states and tensions between them. Increasing inequality, social divisions, widening differences in culture and values: all these trends have become existential threats.”

These are serious words coming from a seasoned diplomat and head of state, and they grabbed a lot of the mind in the forum, at least from representatives of the Middle Powers. The delegates agreed that it is time for the great powers to engage all nations as adults rather than as pawns in a larger game.

Tokayev also confidently affirmed the following: “I want to emphasize Kazakhstan’s key role in the Belt and Road Initiative, which promotes economic development and intra-regional connectivity.” Astana will do business with Beijing whether you like it or not if it suits the interests of Kazakhstan and the general interest of the region.

Be that as it may, in recent years Great Power overconfidence—perhaps unbeknownst to its cheerleaders—has become dangerously counterproductive to peace and stability, as it has reduced diplomacy to an unreliable game of intrigue and ambition that dislikes compromises and feeds on staring eyes. ideologies and relentless moralizing.

Kazakhstan and the Middle Powers

Tokayev succeeded in bringing together most of the Middle Powers from Asia, Africa and the Middle East in Astana, although Latin America was poorly represented. The delegates indicated that they no longer stand idly by as entire parts of the world sink into chaos and conflict because of clashes and clashes between great powers.

The forum served as a welcome alternative to the recent one Summit of the Group of Seven in Hiroshima and its members’ obsession with evangelical-style moralizing about the promotion of open, transparent, resilient, and sustainable societies, while usually skipping the difficult task of improving the very economic conditions necessary for genuine human development.

In Astana there were very few adherents of a unipolar worldview. The forum affirmed that an agenda for global peace and security requires multilateral responses and diplomatic compromises, rather than pitting one bloc against another, weaponizing economic policies and finances, or playing off the national interests of one country against those of another. another.

As Tokayev reaffirmed at the Astana International Forum: “I am optimistic that constructive discussions in the next two days can help us find possible solutions and further cooperation. Let me end with a friendly warning. To foster meaningful conversations and collaboration, open-mindedness, tolerance and compromise are required.”

The Astana International Forum is expected to take place every year. Let’s hope the great powers will listen.


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Middle Powers take on the Great Powers in the Astana Forum

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