Kazakhstan’s geoeconomic quest for power in a multipolar world
Barma, Naazneen H.
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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has managed to overcome a crumpling economy and ethnic tensions to become the wealthiest and most internationally respected republic in Central Asia: the only one to garner membership and leadership roles in the United Nations Security Council and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. How has Kazakhstan achieved this, given its history of oppression by foreign powers and its remote and vulnerable geography? Abandoning the logic of realism, President Nursultan Nazarbayev rejected the militaristic route to building state power, including giving up inherited Soviet nuclear weapons. Instead, he has implemented a "multi-vector" foreign policy that utilizes Kazakhstan’s mineral resource wealth and geopolitical position, taking advantage of major powers’ dependence on imported natural resources to build leverage. By examining his strategies through the lens of geoeconomics, this thesis sheds light on how a producer state can peacefully gain power vis-à-vis stronger neighbors in the modern international arena, what that means for U.S. foreign policy in dealing with illiberal regimes, and what challenges still lie ahead that may threaten to derail Kazakhstan’s unexpected and remarkable rise.
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