From the landmark Biden-Xi summit in San Francisco to the upcoming COP28 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, November is proving to be a busy month for global diplomacy. Both events highlight some of the world’s biggest challenges at this time, from the increasingly contentious U.S.-China relationship to the disruptions associated with climate change and the management of the global energy transition. One country that may play a surprisingly important role in shaping each of these major themes in the coming months and years is Kazakhstan.
Located in Central Asia, Kazakhstan sits astride strategic real estate in the middle of the Eurasian supercontinent. The country has long borders with both Russia and China, and it is a significant producer and exporter of energy sources like oil, natural gas, and uranium. The combination of this location and resources has made Kazakhstan of substantial interest to external powers, most notably its two giant neighbors. Russia has had influential ties to Kazakhstan for centuries and remains an important trade and security partner. In the meantime, China has emerged as a significant economic player in Kazakhstan over the past decade. Chinese president Xi Jinping even announced the launch of the flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Astana in 2013.