For 20 years now, or even longer, many countries and international organizations have been toying with the Eurasian theme. There can be no doubt that the idea for a Greater Eurasia put forward by President of Russia Vladimir Putin is quite convincing and promising, substantive and in-tune with the times, both in name and substance.
The Belt and Road concept of Chinese President Xi Jinping is attractive not just in terms of its scale or geographical reach, but also its immense potential for coordinating economic development and creating partnerships, and bridging the long-standing East-West infrastructure divide. This project is designed to facilitate economic cooperation along the Silk Road by respecting mutual interests through mutual benefit and joint security efforts.
Russian leadership has called on the European Union “to launch efforts with the view to creating a single economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific based on the principles of indivisible security, including the speedy launch of talks on setting up a free trade area between the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union.” It is worth noting that this call cannot be regarded as a competing project or initiative to challenge Chinese leadership. Given the positive momentum in Russian-Chinese cooperation, the two projects could very well prove complementary, benefiting all countries throughout our vast continent.
Of course, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), which brings together 26 countries and is quite useful, should not be left out of the picture. The clear objective of building Greater Eurasia has made its way into the agenda of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is led by China and Russia and where smaller countries like Kyrgyzstan are equal partners of the great powers. This equality is not merely a formal principle, but a practical reality of SCO activity. However, in order for the SCO to make further progress on the Greater Eurasia concept it needs to undergo serious transformations.
Drawing ASEAN into the Greater Eurasian project is an objective necessity for a number of reasons, including the exposure of ASEAN countries to global economic development, rules and standards, as well as the need to fight cross-border crime.
As for the general idea of building a Greater Eurasia, I strongly believe that the countries of the Eurasian continent face a strategic challenge of launching a new, multifunctional and multipurpose historical process. This effort will consist of not just claiming new transfer routes for goods, people, capital, etc., but also jump starting a new historical process that would be inclusive, proactive, geared toward project solutions, advantageous to the security of states and their people, their rights and needs, and beneficial to all, with binding rules governing common activity to be adopted by all participants in this process. Central Asian countries should be even more proactive and consolidated in their efforts to promote development across the region to avoid being sidelined by human history.
The concept should feature a number of aspects, including the following:
1. Fostering a new culture of relations among countries and peoples;
2. Articulating and introducing new standards and norms for a new economic order, based on greater equality and mutual benefit.
3. Moving to a new leadership model in terms of format and content;
4. Adopting a new approach to diplomacy called Silk Route Diplomacy.
5. Preventing excessive militarization beyond reasonable levels along the Silk Route.
6. Putting in place prerequisites for devising common approaches to collective security.
This new culture of relations (I would also add a new psychology of relationships to this list) should be based on positive achievements of the past, building on the accomplishments of the Euro-Atlantic part of the human community, and also other elements of our universal historical heritage, including Central Asian cultures, which have so far been left out of international cooperation.
In today’s world, relations within the Silk Road space must be free from stereotypes and ridiculous misapprehensions. What we need is grassroots effort to better educate our peoples about each other, instead of leaving it to diplomats, experts and businesspeople.
The current leadership model needs to be reformatted and filled with new content, which could prove challenging given the current state of international relations. In a way, the Greater Eurasia project serves as a platform for developing a new concept of leadership. It is important that countries and peoples who are unable to aspire to a leadership role in global affairs contribute to developing this concept.
It is obvious that building a new culture of relations and introducing a new leadership concept can serve as a foundation for Silk Road diplomacy.
Countries involved in the New Silk Road initiative can use the existing international structures like CICA, the CSTO and the SCO to counter excessive militarization in Eurasia.
Nuclear non-proliferation is another pressing issue. Specifically, I believe that Central Asia could well become a nuclear-weapons-free zone and in doing so strengthen the non-proliferation regime by renouncing the use of nuclear power for military purposes. By coordinating their efforts and with support from the UN, other Eurasian regional and international organizations and individual countries, such as China and Russia, Central Asian countries could promote the idea of a nuclear-free zone in Eurasia.
To conclude, let me say that the Greater Eurasia initiative and interstate cooperation within this space is an attractive idea for all Eurasian countries. Only by acting together and cooperating on a mutually beneficial basis can we achieve the objectives we have set for ourselves.