Ella Askerova on Her Participation in the 6th Warsaw Security Forum

By Ella Askerova, MALD 2019 Candidate, The Fletcher School

I had the honor of being elected to the 2019 cohort of the New Security Leaders Program (NSL) and the 6th Warsaw Security Forum, which took place in Warsaw, Poland on September 29 – October 4, 2019. Both of the events were organized by the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, a Polish think tank specializing in foreign policy and international security, in cooperation with the European Academy of Diplomacy. The NSL program is designed for promising mid-career global change-makers with expectational leadership potential.

During the week, we worked closely with mentors by addressing and proposing solutions to the most pressing global issues facing Central and Eastern Europe. We also talked about the importance of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance and China’s rise. I mostly focused on Russia-China relations and had an opportunity to privately discuss this topic with world-known Russia expert Andrew A. Michta (Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies). I also prepared a lecture on geopolitics in Kazakhstan and why the world cares so little about Central Asia. Participants in the forum attended an event organized by the Romanian Embassy entitled, “Two Countries, the Same Destiny – One Century of Diplomatic Relations and a Decade of Strategic Partnership between Poland and Romania.”


There were many respected experts and VIP guests attending the Warsaw Security Forum. As NLS participants, we were able to attend any session and network with other attendees and speakers. That is how I found myself talking to former president of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite, who asked me to tell her about the Kazakh economy. Some moments in life make you speechless and this was one of them. I rambled something but mostly was excited that Madam President engaged in a dialogue of any kind with me.

During my time at Fletcher, I have read books written by Bobo Lo, who has written extensively on Russian and Chinese foreign policy. At NSL, I attended a session where he was a moderator. It was an exciting moment to see the author in real life and talk to him about his books afterwards.

I also had a chance to visit Krakow, which was Poland’s capital until 1596. It is a lovely old city with a well-preserved medieval center. I thought that while in Poland it was important to pay tribute to the innocent people who died in the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, so I went on a tour there. The camps have a dark history and are emotionally difficult to visit, but we should do everything possible to keep that history alive and accessible so that we will not repeat such events.

I am very grateful to Fletcher’s Russia and Eurasia Program for giving me the opportunity to participate in such a memorable event and explore Poland for ten days, as well as to participate in two earlier Russian exchange programs. Prof. Miller and Mr. Burakovsky have shaped my interest in Eurasian affairs. Even though I come from Kazakhstan, I had previously known little about Russian foreign policy. The media portrays a different picture and narrative in my country. Both of these experts have taught me how to assess any political situation in Russia and what questions to ask. They have supported me though my journey at Fletcher and have left a strong impact on my life.


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