Changing geopolitical dynamics of Kazakhstan: what it means for Turkey

15:42 18 August in ARTICLES, In English, PUBLICATIONS
logoKazinform| 18 August 2009 | 
MEHMET ÖĞÜTÇÜ |  LONDON – When I first ventured into Central Asia as a Turkish diplomat back in 1989, it was still viewed as a terra incognito, yet to be declared independent — people could hardly pronounce the full names of these “stans.” Things have changed significantly over the past two decades as these countries have consolidated independence. Among them, Kazakhstan figures prominently as a “rising star” of the region, with significant economic and political achievements, Kazinform cites Mehmet Ogutcu, Today’s Zaman.

In geopolitical terms, intense competition for unimpeded access to the world’s natural resources and the growing need for a greater supply of hydrocarbons (and increasingly uranium), coupled with the commensurate vital geopolitical stakes of Russia, China and the West, have made this region a focal point of attraction and indeed a “battleground” of the 21st-century-style “Great Game” for the oil industry, traders, diplomats, generals, spies, bankers, environmentalists and NGO activities.

This strong and still growing interest has to do with the geo-strategic location of the vast landlocked region, sandwiched between Russia, China, Iran and Afghanistan, but also with its sizeable energy resources, critical for a high-demand growth and tight supply global context. The Caspian Sea was initially believed to be another Gulf, yet we later came to the conclusion that it is perhaps another North Sea, which is on the decline due to the depletion of reserves and decreasing production.

With an estimated 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 27 billion barrels of oil, Kazakhstan boasts more energy reserves than all the other four Central Asian countries combined. Kazakhstan is not only a significant producer of energy in Central Asia, which affects supply and transit security for China, Europe, Russia and its southern neighbors, it has also become an influential player to reckon with in regional geopolitics, with its multi-vector diplomacy involving major powers.

Kazakhstan’s vast energy wealth is coupled with a unique geopolitical position — Kazakhstan has long borders with both Russia and China, as well as with three other Central Asian states and the Caspian Sea. It has also been courting the US, the European Union and other nations in the Islamic world. Kazakhstan styles itself as a force for stability in the region, as well as a driver of economic growth, Kazinform refers to Mehmet Ogutcu, Today’s Zaman.

Mehmet Ogutcu is a Mulkiye, London School of Economics and College d’Europe graduate, a former Turkish diplomat and a senior Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) staffer. He is currently an executive of a major multinational corporation.