Speech of 11th President H.E. Abdullah Gül delivered at Astana Club entitled “Great Eurasia: New Vision of World’s Future”

Yazdır Paylaş Yazıları Büyült Yazıları Küçült

Mr. President,


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentleman,

I am honoured to participate in this meeting for the second time since 2017. I would like to take this opportunity, to thank the organization committee for their kind invitation and for bringing us all together.

Thanks to the vaccination efforts around the world, we finally see light at the end of the tunnel. We are travelling once again and attending in person events such as Astana forum. I hope that this pandemic ends soon, and the restrictions on our lives are finally lifted.

It is always a great pleasure for me to be in Kazakhstan. I have been in your beautiful country many times since its independence. Throughout these years, I have personally witnessed Kazakhstan’s development and its remarkable achievements in state and nation building under the wise leadership of my dear Brother President Nazarbayev. This year, you are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of independence as a prestigious member of the international community. I believe that Kazakshtan’s future will be even brighter and it will be a guarantor of peace, security and stability in Eurasia and beyond.

Ladies and Gentleman,

As it is known, we have been going through a great transformation in the international arena. The world’s economic and political centres of gravity are shifting towards Asia. When the cold war ended, the US found itself economically, militarily and politically the sole hegemonic power. However, due to the tectonic shifts in the balance of power, the era of an unipolar world is now over. The US confronts an international system with not one, or two, but multiple centres of power. The competition of the great powers has taken centre stage once again. Great Eurasian powers such as China, Russia and lately India are creating their own sphere of influences.

The on-going trend in international relations forces us to draw an analogy with the Cold War years and alliances systems of the 18th and early 19th centuries. As students of history, we all know that the rivalry of great powers over Asia brought misery, destruction and death to these lands in previous centuries. Remember the Great Game in the 19th Century or armed conflicts of the Cold War years. I hope that 21st century will be a different story and this great power competition will not veer into conflict but will be an era of cooperation and peaceful coexistence. Our goal must be to craft a different story this time around and harness current transformations in international politics into channels of progress that yield better lives for our citizens.

In order to craft a bright future, I believe that the states should act as rational and responsible members of the international system and refrain from adventurist or irredentist foreign policies that endanger peace, security, stability and economic development. Namely, every member of the international system should respect a rule-based international order together with international law, and be determined to solve bilateral and multilateral problems peacefully through diplomacy.

However, you can expect this kind of rational behaviour only from accountable governments which prioritize wellbeing and welfare of its citizens above everything. In other words, to reach a peaceful international system which is based on cooperation and collaboration, every country should put its house in order first and meet fundamental criteria such as the rule of law, good-governance and respecting universal human rights. They should not incline to authoritarianism, which disregards these fundamental criteria.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we all know, after the cold war the liberal international order was triumphant and western democracies declared their global victory over the other political systems. Russia was on the path of being a liberal democratic state and China expedited the liberalization of its national economy, increased its engagement with the world and became a WTO member by accepting certain rules on transparency and the rule of law. Under such conditions, the western intellectuals were discussing “the end of the history”.

Nevertheless, the last decade has been a terrible decade for democracy and its values. The global problems and challenges such as economic and political crises, the armed conflicts, irregular and mass migrations, terrorism, and pandemic have unfortunately empowered populist, authoritarian and repressive political currents all over the world. At the moment, it can be claimed that liberal world order is in peril.

While, in the West, democracies and its values are under constant attack from populist political movements, in the East, many countries have ended their adoption of liberal democratic standards and veer towards autocracy rather than democracy. We have started to observe strengthening of authoritarian tendencies in almost every part of the world such as eradicating checks & balances systems, changing constitutions to eliminate constraints on presidency terms and shifting from multi-party democracies to single party states.

I see this as a dangerous trend for the future of Eurasia, especially in a period when the great power competition has returned. Authoritarian regimes, which implement oppressive internal policies and pursue aggressive, hostile foreign policies, will not only lead to internal unrest but also imperil international peace and security in the long term. History, especially the 1930s and the cold war years, are full of examples of how these kinds of regimes constitute risk to international peace and stability.

An authoritarian government always poses a threat for international security as the interests of a small ruling group become more important than the whole society. They implement a belligerent foreign policy to consolidate power domestically.  Therefore, we have to be vigilant about this on-going trend and should never relinquish citizens’ control over their governments in the name of establishing strong states.

It is obvious that current global challenges and increasing competition in the international arena requires strong states. However, I disagree with the argument that authoritarianism brings about strong states and authoritarian governments deliver better than democratic ones.

First of all, for development and economic growth, the institutions and the structure of society are crucial both in the short and long run. Authoritarian governments that prioritize loyalty above meritocracy, and obedience to party policies or doctrines over freedom of thought will inevitably kill a vibrant civil society and its creativity over time. This will inevitably lead to limited innovation, slower economic growth and less welfare. In other words, strict authoritarian measures to control the society cannot give rise to constant economic growth and a prosperous society.

I am not a naive person. Therefore, I am not discussing that all the Eurasian countries must be democratic and they should all embrace the liberal values. I am aware of the fact that establishment of a true democracy is a long process and cannot happen in a short period of time. For democratic culture to take root, not only an institutional transformation of state structure but also a transformation in the minds of people is needed.

Today, what I am emphasizing is that for the international peace, security and stability of our geography, states should avoid authoritarian tendencies and even if they are not democracies, they should at least embrace certain fundamental criteria such as rule of law, respecting human rights, good governance and accountability.

Implementing these criteria will automatically foster economic development and assure an equitable distribution of wealth in our societies. As you all know, when the economic welfare and foreign economic linkages of the countries increase, they will be more inclined to solve their domestic and international problems peacefully rather than through force.

In addition, transatlantic countries should also support the economic development and regional stability of Eurasia through better economic cooperation and connectivity. They should perceive the shifting dynamics in the world economy as an opportunity rather than a challenge to improve the global prosperity.

I have full confidence that 21st century will be the century of Eurasia and we will witness the rise its fortunes. Eurasia hosts some of the greatest civilizations of the world. The states in this region reflect thousands of years of culture and tradition accrued patiently over time. Countries like China, Russia and India have deep philosophical and intellectual traditions that have withstood the test of time. I believe that Eurasian countries will eventually appreciate the importance of adhering to tried and tested universal criteria that create a peaceful international environment which is conducive to the development and economic growth.

I, once again, would like to express my sincere thanks to the organization committee of Astana Club for bringing us together and also for their excellent hospitality.  Thank you.

Yazdır Paylaş Yukarı