ALMATY, Kazakhstan — U.S. populist Steve Bannon moved off his recently adopted European stage and from his Italian monastery to Kazakhstan’s Almaty in Central Asia where he hugged and shared a platform with extreme-left commentator and former British politician George Galloway.
At the Eurasia Media Forum, 2019 both proclaimed their roots to working class people, with Bannon affirming his links to capitalism and Galloway, once expelled from the UK Labour Party, to “socialism” as they joined hands in a globalized anti-globalization alliance.
“I’m a working-class man from the same ethnoreligious background as Steve Bannon, although we have many other differences,” said Galloway as he and Bannon supported each other point for point on their vehemence of globalization and the European Union.
At the Eurasian Media Forum in the Almaty, the largest city in Kazkhstan, both predicted a sweeping victory across Europe in the May 27 elections for anti-EU candidates in the European elections.
Gains were indeed made in those election by the extreme left and right, where they certainly won the highest number of votes in Britain, France and Italy but their projections of a sweeping gain across Europe were off course.
The real gains were made by liberal and Green Party groups favoring a strong European Union in a record voting turnout for recent times.
Bannon has drawn media attention in Europe recently due to his involvement with the Certosa di Trisulti monastery, southeast of Rome, the home for a new school of political populism he has founded.
The monastery houses an institute run by Briton Benjamin Harnwell, a convert to Roman Catholicism, who recently told Britain’s Channel 4 News its role is to “save western civilization” and “mobilize Christian and Jews in the fight against Islam.”
SHIFTING POWER BALANCE
A shifting power balance and how it affects the trust in politicians along with deglobalization was the focus of the Eurasia Media Forum’s discussion on its final day.
One session was titled “Crisis of Trust, global power balance” which moderator and international broadcaster Stephen Cole described as a “superpower game of thrones.”
“East versus West was a very easy configuration to understand,” said Cole introducing the speakers. “Has the U.S. given up on nation building?” And, “what is the role of the media in all this?”
“I don’t speak for President Trump,” said Bannon who said he represents an “anti-Davos” movement.
But he said the United States has a “pretty clear plan” for the post Second World War liberal rules-based order that was a series of commercial arrangements, capital markets, trade arrangement and with American security added on.
“We are not an imperial power, we are a revolutionary power,” said Bannon.
Galloway who often agreed with Bannon said that he was “not happy” when Donald Trump was elected president, but he was happy that Hilary Clinton was kept out in a “sweep against liberalism.”
Bannon said, “The elites’ day is done,” and “you are starting to see a restructuring.”
He noted that “by Sunday night … the populist nationalist movement will start to take charge for a new beginning for the working class and middle class people throughout the world,” when the European Union election results were to be announced.
The Eurasian Media Forum describes itself as “an open dialogue on the most pressing topics of the present, with the participation of the most significant figures in the global media space, opinion leaders and recognized professionals in different fields.”
Its theme this year was “The world today: Transforming reality?” and the conference took place in the one-time capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty from May 22-24. The conference does not seem to mind having “tricky panelists” said one diplomat there.
In its 16th year, this forum gathered more than 600 delegates more than 60 countries.
“Kazakhstan is a natural bridge between East and West due to its unique position at the corner of Asia, Europe, and the post-Soviet region,” said the organizers.
Bannon, the former election campaign strategist for U.S. President Donald Trump, was joined on stage by academic Mark Siegel, former director of the U.S. National Committee of the Democratic Party from 1973 to 1977, and Galloway, a British commentator and former Member of Parliament.
The globalists’ defense was backed by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Austria’s former secretary of state.
Their arguments in favor of slow-moving reform and compromise sounded much less appealing than the rapier-like barbs of Galloway and Bannon’s suave slogans as both railed against globalism and regionalism in defense of their “rust belts” on both sides of the Atlantic, drawing the strongest applause with their populst rhetoric.
“The EU is supporting a rules-based order and not a jungle-based one. We recognize the need for reform at the EU and international-level, but international law is the basis for everything. Otherwise, we have struggles and conflicts,” Ferrero-Waldner said.
Siegel said it was impossible for US foreign policy to build trust under the Trump administration’s “allergy to multilateralism” and its “walking away from agreements and international law.”
RIPPING UP INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS
He said noone could build trust by “ripping up international agreements” such as Paris accord on climate change and the nuclear deal with Iran involving a number of nations spending 2 trillion dollars on a new nuclear program or “pardoning war criminals who violated the Geneva Convention.”
“There is no real decision-making process in the White House,” said Siegel. “A neo-isolationist President and his unilaterally interventionist national security advisor act by whim. Why would any country, such as North Korea, want to negotiate?”
Bannon, as seems to be customary, arrived on stage looking disheveled and bleary-eyed, his khaki chinos and hiking boots a counterpoint to the dapper outfits of the other stage participants including Galloway who kept his fedora on always, sending his verbal blasts from below his hat rim.
Fostering understanding across regional and cultural borders was the key motivation for Dr. Dariga Nazarbayeva when she founded the Forum in 2002.
She is an opera singer, chairperson of Kazakstan’s Senate and the daughter of former Kazakhstan President Nursultan Abishulý Nazarbayev. Some people say she may herself become president one day.