In the tense and complex geopolitical landscape, marked by conflicts and disputes, Kazakhstan is emerging as a potential pivotal intermediary, capable of contributing to resolving ongoing conflicts, including the protracted war between Russia and Ukraine and the hostilities between Russia and the West.
The President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who was on an official visit to Germany on September 28-29, held tête-à-tête talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a significant move that can have positive implications for the geopolitical situation in Europe and wider Eurasia. The multifaceted relations that Kazakhstan maintains with Russia, Ukraine, the European Union, and particularly Germany, positions it uniquely, offering a distinctive diplomatic perspective.
Can Kazakhstan, leveraging its multi-vector foreign policy under President Tokayev’s stewardship, overcome challenges posed by sanctions and contribute to cultivating peace in this volatile region?
President Tokayev, delineating Kazakhstan’s stance and relations, remarked during his visit to Germany that “Kazakhstan and Russia share the longest land border in the world and have a longstanding tradition of cooperation, including in trade and humanitarian fields.” This was further solidified in 2013, when both nations signed a Treaty on Allied Relations, underscoring the closeness and the mutual understanding existing between the two countries. Last year, the volume of Kazakh-Russian trade reached 25 billion dollars.
The Kazakh President also articulated Kazakhstan’s position on the use of sanctions, declaring that the country opposes sanction confrontations. He expressed that politically motivated restrictions damage the overall atmosphere of international relations and impede the development of trade and economic cooperation between nations. He emphasized that Kazakhstan advocates for the development of barrier-free trade and investment cooperation with all interested states. The President also noted that Kazakhstan must respect and observe the sanction restrictions that the West has imposed on Russia and maintain dialogue on this matter with the relevant international organizations.
In Kazakhstan’s view, an excessive imposition of sanctions can have a counterproductive effect on its attempts to promote positive and peaceful relations among states. As outlined by the President in his recent address at the United Nations General Assembly, Kazakhstan advocates for barrier-free trade and investment cooperation as part of its firm belief that economic interdependence serves as the bedrock of a more peaceful and prosperous world.
As part of Kazakhstan’s efforts to prevent the circumvention of sanctions on Kazakhstan’s territory, its government has introduced multiple domestic measures across customs and law enforcement to ensure oversight on the trade of sanctioned goods with neighbouring Russia. As a result, sanctioned products do not cross Kazakhstan’s territory.
Kazakhstan has also maintained a steadfast position on the Ukrainian conflict, advocating for “an immediate cessation of hostilities and the initiation of peace talks based on the principles of the UN Charter.” The seriousness of the current situation is not lost on President Tokayev, who expressed concerns to the German Chancellor about finding a platform for negotiations that is coherent and agreeable to both Russian and Ukrainian sides.
In this scenario, where mutual accusations are rife, President Tokayev’s suggestion that a “reasonable, rational, wise diplomacy is coming,” is noteworthy, as is Kazakhstan’s support and willingness to be part of the efforts made by states or groups of states to resolve the Ukrainian conflict. Kazakhstan’s willingness to extend every effort to bring peace while maintaining friendly, bilateral contacts, could prove invaluable when the conflicting parties are prepared to engage in negotiations.
Kazakhstan has exemplified diplomatic proficiency by serving as a platform for addressing major international disputes. The Astana Process on Syria and talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, in 2013 on the Iranian nuclear issue underscore Kazakhstan’s willingness and capability to facilitate dialogue and negotiation between conflicting parties. These endeavours underscore its experience and commitment to international peace and stability, establishing its stature as a credible mediator in geopolitical conflicts, which is imperative in the current volatile international scenario dominated by many crises.
Parallelly, Kazakhstan’s relationships with the European Union are burgeoning, Germany being a notable partner. Currently, Germany is one of the largest trading partners and a leading investor in Kazakhstan’s economy. Kazakhstan accounts for about 83 percent of Germany’s total trade with the Central Asian region, with bilateral trade turnover increasing by 25 percent to $2.8 billion by the end of 2022. At his meeting with President Tokayev, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed a strong willingness to deepen trade, economic, and investment relations with Kazakhstan. In particular, there was expressed interest in increasing oil supplies, diversifying supply chains, and implementing infrastructure projects.
The cooperation extends through various domains like trade, economics, investment, transport and logistics, and green energy. This expansive collaboration with Germany, coupled with the country’s amicable relations with all its neighbours and beyond, positions Kazakhstan as a key intermediary.
Kazakhstan’s principled stance on the Ukrainian conflict and its desire for the initiation of peace talks based on UN Charter principles may offer a fresh perspective and a new impetus to resolving the dispute. The mutual understanding and respect that Kazakhstan enjoys with countries in both the East and the West could potentially facilitate the creation of a negotiation platform that is acceptable to both sides.
Moreover, the active involvement and the support of the European Union, particularly Germany, in collaboration with Kazakhstan, can act as a formidable force to broker peace in the region. Germany’s increasing cooperation with Kazakhstan, in myriad fields, augments the possibilities of a concerted effort aimed at creating stability and peace in the Eurasian region.
Thus, Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign policy, which signifies its amicable relations with all states, is a beacon of hope in these turbulent times. The country’s willingness to participate in peace efforts and to facilitate diplomatic negotiations is a testament to its commitment to global concord and security.
In conclusion, the consolidation of diplomatic efforts, a balanced approach, and the utilisation of Kazakhstan’s friendly relations with all sides, underlined by its expanding rapport with the EU and Germany, can indeed be instrumental in resolving both current and any possible future conflicts or disagreements between East and West, Asia and Europe. The international community should recognize and leverage Kazakhstan’s potential as a mediator to end the hostilities and bring lasting peace to the region.
[Photo by the official website of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan]
Ernest Gallo is an academic and a visiting professor on international studies. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.