The recently held St. Petersburg and Astana Economic Forums have become yet another confirmation that the realization of the «Eurasian economic platform» program to counterbalance «the Atlantic club» is underway. However, if for Russia, the project has become something of an Armageddon, then in Kazakhstan, we are observing a phenomenon that can be called «playing with Davos». On the surface, everything looks «almost real» but, in actuality, differs drastically from its Western counterpart in terms of content and scale.
It is indicative that the St. Petersburg Economic Forum ended with a high-profile scandal. As Russian newspaper Kommersant says, the arrest of journalist Ivan Golunov pushed out of the international news agenda both the results of the forum and the unprecedently high-level relationships between Russia and the People’s Republic of China that the forum’s two most important participants, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and General Secretary Xi Jinping, were trying to demonstrate to the rest of the world.
But the end picture that indeed was demonstrated to the world was this — «the Eurasian integration is being developed by authoritarian political systems and will lead to violating human rights».
And this is not a hypothetical slogan about violating the rights of «the humble man». In the future, it may affect the «small country» that has found itself in the attrition mill of the big Eurasian politics.
Thus, the main idea of the «Eurasian alliance» with its calling for the world order revision via creating a collective international system that is to ensure prosperity and the right to choose to all has been undermined.
Revising the forums
The task of the world order revision looks strange in the context of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum that, in essence, is but a franchise of the World Economic Forum.
From the moment of its birth in 1971, the Davos Economic Forum has been considered the pinnacle of the economic order established after the WWII; the order whose principles were usually established behind closed doors of some inconspicuous buildings. The appearance of the Davos Economic Forum as a social event became the symbol of the democratization of this order with understanding that, while the order can be modified, its basic principles must remain intact.
It is for this reason that the Soviets came to Davos only in 1987 when the USSR started dismantling its key monopolies — foreign trade and finances. Later, these fields served as the main channels for the former USSR countries to enter the global world.
Thus, bringing the Davos franchise to St. Petersburg was a logical development. The only illogical thing was the date when it was supposed to happen. The St. Petersburg Forum was supposed to have been launched in 1997, however, it did become a part of the global Davos only in 2007. It was in this year that Vladimir Putin gave the Munich speech acknowledging the failure or the unipolar world.
In his speech, the Russian leader had de-facto presented the dividing lines with the Western world albeit in the political field. The economic and business integration was progressing full-speed not least because of the 2008 power change and electing the «liberal» Dmitry Medvedev the President of the country. The calls for the revision of the economic order started after Vladimir Putin’s return to power in 2012. But they got real only in 2014 when it became obvious that the «status quo» was unachievable.
So, if in 2013, the total amount of the deals signed at the St. Petersburg Forum constituted 9.6 trillion rubles, then next year, it dropped to 401.4 bln rubles.
The outlook of the «St. Petersburg Davos» participants has changed as well. With rare exception, the style of the event is set today by the supports of the «total global revision».
Contrary to St. Petersburg, the Astana Economic Forum was initially created as an instrument for revising the basics of the world order.
In June 2007, Nursultan Nazarbayev personally suggested to create the Eurasian Club of Academics whose task was to develop the ideological platform for the Eurasian community via launching a series of the Eurasian projects proposed by Nazarbayev himself back in 1994 at his Moscow State University speech. Thus, from the very beginning, the initiative was regarded as one of the state-level significance. The Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning was put in charge of carrying out this initiative, and the Club first saw the light of day in June 2008.
At that point, Kazakhstan as well as its President, were already preoccupied with something else. The Kazakh order was collapsing, the entire banking system of the country was destroyed, the projects that were to be implemented in the neighboring countries were back-pedaled. Nonetheless, Nursultan Nazarbayev and his immediate circle were not in a hurry to abandon the revisionist idea.
On February 2009, Rossiyskaya Gazeta published an article titled «The Keys from the Crises» under the authorship of Nursultan Nazarbayev himself. It was an epic piece in which the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan insisted on abandoning the dollar and urged the people to convert their assets into one certain «transital».
It was on this upbeat note that the history of the Astana Economic Forum (AEF) has begun.
Ten years later, Nazarbayev confirmed that the ideas presented in Rossiyskaya Gazeta were not some kind of random deviation when, opening last year’s forum, he proudly announced the calling of a meeting designed to develop the G-Global project (the one presented in The Key from the Crisis» article).
Giving the role of the AEF’s international promoter to Marc Uzan, the economist who has long been lobbying the idea of revisioning the world financial order (quite unsuccessfully, we must add) confirms that the forum was based on the revisionist idea.
In 1994, Marc Uzan founded his own club in the form of a non-for-profit organization called Reinventing Bretton Woods Committee. It was associated with the 50-year anniversary of the Bretton Woods conference where they developed the principles of the global financial system based on pegging all the world currencies to the dollar the price of which was fixed at 35 $ per troy ounce. De-facto, the Bretton Woods system seized to exist back in 1971after the USA had abandoned pegging the dollar to the gold.
Marc Uzan wanted to find political forces that would help him conduct the global system revision. He managed to do so only in a few-year time. Nursultan Nazarbayev turned out to be the one who was able to assist Uzan in his undertaking. Since that time, Marc Uzan has become a permanent resident of the AEF and is engaged in developing the forum’s economic agenda.
A true emptiness
The real World Economic Forum that takes place in Switzerland is a large-scale session for all kinds of people from all kinds of countries. Even if, as it happened in 2019, the political leaders do not come, the business-leaders compensate for that more than enough since they are the ones discussing the future of the globalization while being the drivers for this process.
The St. Petersburg forum has essentially turned into the Davos’ Russian «alter-ego». Here they discuss the prospects of the collapse of the global system and bet on it by introducing import phase-out programs, creating the national payment system and the system of the sovereign internet defense.
In other words, this forum is kind of a General Staff where they discuss the realia of the economic war. And the appearance of Chinese leader Xi Jinping who is playing out a complex strategy in his relationships with the USA in St. Petersburg is understandable and fits into this picture quite logically.
Amid all this, it is especially interesting to assess the outcomes of the Astana forum that was attended by a number of public figures whose empty talks were completely unmemorable. This can mean only one thing — all these people came to get paid for their talks (such payments usually serve as an absolutely legal source of income for many public figures).
But if we are to look at the actual attendance of the forum’s sections and pay attention to the list of the participants, we will see that, behind the «almost Davos» façade, Kazakhstan’s good old Soviet-style apparatchik meeting is taking over.
From that perspective, the inclusion of the global issues into the forum’s agenda may evoke nothing but a smile. A polite one if we are talking about the «welcome guest’s» reaction; a sarcastic one — if we are doing some straight talking.
As for Nursultan Nazarbayev, he dreams on. At the last AEF, he proposed to use the forum as a venue for discussing the sanction issues and invite representatives of the USA, China, Russia and EU. «I am communicating about this with the leaders of these countries, we have an understanding. We can present such dialogue-establishing venue in our capital», says Nazarbayev.
Incidentally, he did not forget to mention that the venue will now be called Nur-Sultan. In other words, the forum is to change its name one way or another.
One can imagine Nur-Sultan in the proposed capacity. Once, for instance, the role of such venue was performed by Tehran where representatives of the US, Great Britain and the USSR met in 1943. Of course, at the time, Iran was completely devoid of its sovereignty despite its neutral status proclaimed during the WWII.
It appears that Marc Uzan is the only one displaying a constructive attitude in this «forum game». For him, it is a kind of Bretton Woods «rescue committee» that is helping to save his movement and himself.