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A study by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), focusing on the world’s ‘middle powers’ and published on 23 January, has identified twelve of them: Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, India, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil.

As the authors explain, although the twelve states are very different, what they have in common is their focus on economic development, the strong emphasis on security and stability and the pursuit of strategic autonomy.

SWP singled out Kazakhstan in particular for its balanced foreign policy, its positioning as a Central Asian key player, and its rich resources – and for being a key element of the so-called Middle Corridor.

“Kazakhstan has a wealth of resources that attracted the interest of the USA and Europe: fossil fuels (especially petroleum), metals, minerals and rare earth. The country has potential for the production of green energy sources (Hydrogen), in which the European Union (EU) has recently shown growing interest”, SWP writes.

The German institute also said that Kazakhstan is banking on the EU’s Global Gateway project, as an alternative to China’s Belt-and-Road initiative. “Kazakhstan presents itself as a bridge between East and West and – with the (Caspian) port of Aktau – as a hinge in the Trans-Caspian Corridor”, the paper says.

On foreign policy, SWP said that despite the country’s close relations with Russia, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev “unequivocally criticised the actions of his Russian counterpart” in the context of the war in Ukraine.

“He unequivocally told publicly President Putin at the International Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg in June 2022 that the legal principle of territorial integrity of states should prevail and made it clear that Kazakhstan will not recognize the annexed territories in Ukraine”, the report reads.

According to the German think tank, in the thirty years of its national independence, a mode of foreign policy action has developed in Kazakhstan that impairs the hegemonic claims of the major powers Russia, China, and the USA, through selective cooperation with these geopolitical antagonists.

This policy of not taking sides, but engaging with all guarantees Kazakhstan a maximum of independence and creates space for the articulation and enforcement of state self-interests, SWP concludes.

Euractiv asked Roman Vassilenko, deputy minister of foreign affairs of Kazakhstan, to comment on the news that his country was ranked among the world’s middle powers.

Vassilenko emphasized multilateralism, a key feature of his country’s foreign policy.

“If we are to find sustainable solutions to global problems, in an era characterised by increases in both polarisation and interconnectivity, we need more robust multilateralism”, he said on Wednesday (14 February).

According to Vassilenko, this was even more important now, a time when there has been a notable shift in the balance of power.

“Now, this responsibility does not only fall on the traditional “great powers”, but on a broader range of international players. Countries like Kazakhstan are increasingly able to make critical contributions to geopolitical issues, by leveraging their strong, multifaceted diplomatic relationships as well as their resources”, the diplomat said.

He recognised that it was a pleasure to be mentioned by a respectable German institution in such a context, but this was obviously a recognition of the role of Kazakhstan in the global diplomatic power play and a call for a more robust and active engagement.