Alexei Vlasov, executive director of the Center for Political Studies “North – South”, editor-in-chief of Vestnik Kavkaza We will not – at least, I suggest not to do this – talk to you today about the moments that make up the problem areas in the relationship between the countries participating in the Eurasian integration project in terms of the past. We will try to talk about what intellectuals, the business community and our human, social and cultural structures can do for the normal development of our mutual economic convergence, and what role public dialogue should play in it. The first point: the format of public dialogue should be added to economic integration. The main problem that now exists between Russia and Kazakhstan is a problem that integration and the economic project lack public support. Key issues to be solved at the level of heads of state, President Vladimir Putin and Nursultan Nazarbayev, are not doubted. Nursultan Nazarbayev is expected in Moscow; on February 8 a working visit of the President of Kazakhstan to Moscow will take place. And we firmly believe that no problem in the negotiations between top officials in this case will arise, as they did not arise before. Problems arise when our relations fall to the next step down, to the level of administrative bureaucracy. And this is understandable, because each ministry, agency or individual official has a definite interest. Density of interaction increases, and, of course, there are certain tensions, they are inevitable. But if these tensions arise against the background of wide public support for the idea of economic integration, all these issues can be resolved by simple interagency negotiations and not brought to the front pages of the press, not excite Russian or Kazakh society and follow the same calm, confident, clear path, like two, three, four years ago. Hence, public support is a guarantee of preservation of the firmness and consistency of the course which was scheduled. A second point: the format of humanitarian, social and cultural communication should involve direct dialogue, direct contact between the leaders of public opinion in Russia and Kazakhstan. This contact is also not enough. A third point, and probably the last, as I will not continue to develop this idea: we need to institutionalize community initiatives on the approximation of the intelligentsia, the intellectual community. There is, for example, the Valdai forum in Russia. There is the Astana Economic Forum. Why do not we think about creating the Almaty Forum, or whatever? I still think that such an institution should be created in the territory of Kazakhstan, possibly in Belarus, which would unite the representatives of the social circles and groups that advocate the development of public support for the Eurasian economic integration project. Here the question is not whether to create another layer of bureaucracy. The task is to accumulate and consolidate the opinions, attitudes, desires of rapprochement between the forces which understand that in the XXI century, as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev rightly said, the countries that are outside of integration are doomed to lag, to be out of the main trends on which human civilization is being developed. We have made our choice. Now the challenge is to turn this choice into a real operating project of society, not only a project created by the elites. Nurlan Erimbetov, head of the Center for Social Partnership within the National Welfare Fund “Samruk-Kazyna” The fact is that today we gave the analysis, the talks about the relationship between the two countries to pseudo-experts. We gave them to the mercy of corrupted politicians. We gave them to those who believe that they are patriots of their country, and I believe that patriotism is love for your people, not hatred of a stranger. Today, we have given them podiums and the media, and the intelligent part of the community is silent. And in this regard such talks, when inadequate, politicking, market people are given the floor, they seed the anxious expectations among the people who have their own historical views, not dependent on them. What do we now know about Russia? Corruption of high officials, thieves, murders of migrant workers in Moscow. What is known in Russia about Kazakhstan? Religious extremism, the same corruption, falling aircraft, suicide of a general. That’s all. These events today represent our country. But there is another life, of which we must speak. By and large, I’m talking with my friends-businessmen, I know what they say: they sell, work, build something together, no matter what the talks are. That is, people already work and act, unfortunately, not trusting bureaucrats and officials who seek out for themselves a supposedly lucrative model. In this regard, it is the right question: why now in the lexicon of our politicians, in the vocabulary of those who today define our relationship, are there such expressions as “tariffs”, “price”, “market conditions”, “economic standards”? Why have we abandoned such words as “friendship”, “bordering”, “common environmental problems”, “family”, “common history”, “Gulag”? That’s our history. So I think it’s right, we now take the right direction – the intellectual component, the spiritual component of all these things. In this regard, we also have a suggestion: unfortunately, we must now awaken a society that today is asleep. Because, you know, quarrelling is a matter of days, weeks, hours. But this is the past of many countries on many continents. Later generations for centuries and millennia newly create the relationships that today we can lose. This is what is sought today by Europe, America and Africa – we already have this, and we now want to throw this to the dustbin of history – our relationship. Yes, it should be practical, yes, it should be, perhaps, less romantic, and there should be more mutual benefit. However, it is a pity that we lose it today. Well, with regard to our discussion forums – I think that the first thing is that we could engage our parties in it. This could be part of parties’ work, the establishment of these relations. This is a huge number of smart, intelligent people, with access to the public. They can talk about it, it must be in the party program. Second, why today do not we create the club like at the Valdai forum, I offer our version – Burabaj? This is a nice place. We will have the opportunity not only to talk, but also to relax. And, after all, once there were organizations such as the Society of Kazakh-Russian friendship. Where are they? Where are these people? Why are we leaving many anxious conversations at home, in our kitchens, while on the street we hug each other, slap ourselves on the shoulder and leave home to other conversations? I think that Nurlan will agree with me: two or three times he was a member of the Russian-Kazakh expert forums and clubs along with me, and none of these structures over the past 5-7 years has worked. The reason for it was that most of them were the fruit of a bureaucratic initiative. To some of the officials, whether in Moscow or in Astana, it was interesting to offer their initiative of the creation of a top expert niche. As soon as the officer left his place of work or some rules of the game were changed, this stillborn child would be left aside. Although, too, I think, Nurlan Erimbetov will confirm that interest in such cooperation on the part of ordinary experts has always been huge. The question, in my opinion, is that these structures, of which we are now speaking, should be built not from the top down but from the bottom up. I understand that there is always the issue of funding, of other things associated with some kind of formal, bureaucratic moments. But if we are going to wait again for a solution from above, we risk a situation where we can miss the last departing train. The train will leave without us. So I have one more concrete proposal: from 22 to 24 May in Astana the traditional economic forum will be held. Could we – not just the people sitting here, I know that both Mr. Erimbetov and MSU have those who look forward to strengthening Russian-Kazakh relations – could we suggest to the founders and organizers of the forum to hold a panel associated with the discussion of forms of public support for business initiatives and socio-cultural initiatives within the Eurasian integration project, which would be attended by the ministers, members of the Eurasian Economic Commission, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce in Russia and leading experts of the two countries? We can speak at an economic forum on banking projects, a great panel last year was organized by Mr. Gref. We can talk about the success of Kazakhstan’s modernization – I think that a lot will be said about the program “Kazakhstan-2050”. But, perhaps, could we hold a small panel that would address the issues about which we are talking today? We have to understand that, by and large, we are not welcomed anywhere. Yes, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we sought to enter Europe, America and so on. We realized that we should be together. The world is very cynical today. The world is very scary. Finally, we need to understand this: we need to stop wandering across continents – it’s time to pay attention to our neighbors. I sometimes say to my fellow politicians: let’s at least look at this in terms of our own situation. Kazakhstan will not have any fresh water in 20-25 years. Why should we not revive those projects of Luzhkov and so on? We can at least discuss this. We have common problems in ecology. We have the Caspian Sea, the Urals, huge challenges that tomorrow will appear on the agenda. There is the issue of food programs, food supply. The world is already starving. Desert is advancing. In the end, let’s just survive, let us think of our grandchildren, who do not want to live in the desert. Today, I know from history, fear mongering and finding the enemy is a proven method of leadership, I mean – for the advisers, those who think that it has already happened in our history. In order to unite the nation, it is necessary to identify the enemy. Perhaps there are some ideas that we underestimate. They can be used by people who make decisions under beautiful slogans. But we must not accept it, because a union of nations on such a basis, looking for an enemy, does not bring anything good – we already know this. 1945 is not ancient history.