The Transatlantic vector of the Republic of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy strategy: its state of affairs, problems and prospects – by H.E. Marat SHAIKHUTDINOV, Professor, Doctor of History,Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan

From the first days of its independence Kazakhstan has pursued a balanced, pragmatic and responsible foreign policy, the main goal of which is to create a favorable international environment for the implementation of priority tasks in the economic and political modernization of Kazakhstan.

Being in the heart of Eurasia, at the intersection of different worlds and civilizations, Kazakhstan must therefore necessarily develop a multi-vector strategy aimed at collaboration and cooperation with other countries, integration projects and military-political blocs. This is especially important now, when Kazakhstan and Central Asia as a whole are facing serious challenges and threats.

Given the specificity of its unique geographical and geopolitical position, Kazakhstan supports an exceptionally close policy dialogue with its larger neighbors: Russia and China. Undoubtedly, being located in the same neighborhood as these geopolitical giants contains risks, but also great opportunities and prospects.

It is understood that Russia and China represent two promising markets for Kazakhstan products, two locomotives of the Eurasian economy and two important guarantors of the regional security. It would be wrong not to use these various factors to further promote the interests of Kazakhstan in the international arena. Therefore, Russia and China will always retain their priority as partners of an independent Kazakhstan.

Based on the understanding of the previously mentioned concepts, Kazakhstan takes an active role in almost all Eurasian and Asian structures, including the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Customs Union (CU) and the Common Economic Space (CES), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), Turkic Council, etc. Each of these structures is of vital importance for both Kazakhstan and the whole of Central Asia.

In addition, Kazakhstan has become the initiator of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), designed to be an Asian analogue of the OSCE. We are currently working on the creation of the Agency for International Development Assistance (KAZAID), the main task of which should be to provide economic and technical assistance to our neighbors in Central Asia.

At the same time, Kazakhstan is well aware that its long-term national interests as well as the interests of the entire Central Asian region cannot be fully implemented without close and constructive cooperation with the United States, NATO, the European Union and other transatlantic institutions.

New Horizons of Kazakhstan-US Cooperation

Taking into account the abovementioned state of affairs, Kazakhstan is making considerable effort to build a strategic partnership with the United States of America. Through the efforts of the two countries’ leaders, Kazakhstan-US relations are sustained and systemic, and on a daily basis encompass a wide range of political, economic, military-political and humanitarian cooperation.

An important role is played by the Kazakhstan-US cooperation in trade, investment and energy security. The Commission on the Strategic Partnership is also quite active, managing all issues of mutual interest. It should be noted that Washington hosted the 2nd meeting of the Commission (9-10 July, 2013), during which it was decided to increase the level of representation of the Commissions co-chairs to foreign ministers.

Trade, economic and investment cooperation between Kazakhstan and the United States is also dynamically developing due to a high level of political dialogue. Thus, two-way trade turnover for 2012 exceeded $ 2.5 billion. The U.S. accounts for about $25 billion of foreign direct investments into the Kazakhstan economy (accounting for one-sixth of total foreign investment). However, it is important to note that the continued existence of such an apparent anachronism as the Jackson-Vanik amendment is a serious obstacle for trade and economic cooperation between Kazakhstan and the U.S.

Given current geopolitical realities, special attention must be given to cooperation between Kazakhstan and the U.S. on issues of global and regional security, including a joint fight against international terrorism and extremism. Immediately after the tragic events of 9/11, Kazakhstan was one of the first governments to actively support the anti-terrorist coalition led by the United States, exerting its political and logistical support.

Mostly due to the support of the U.S., Kazakhstan has become one of the leaders of the global non-proliferation movement. Kazakhstan was further aided by the United States in its strong support for the placement of nuclear fuel bank on Kazakhstan territory. Furthermore, with the assistance of the U.S., Kazakhstan has instated an effective new platform for negotiation of the P5+1 over Iran’s nuclear program, held on 26-27 February and 5-6 April, 2013.

No less important is the fact that for many years, cooperation in the military-technical field between the two countries has been successfully developing. At present, the Ministries of Defence  in both Kazakhstan and the United States are implementing the third 5-year cooperation plan, designed for 2013-2017, which includes the development of peace-building capacity, training of special operations units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the establishment of contacts between defence companies.

The growing level of trust between Kazakhstan and the United States is evidenced by an agreement on the mutual issuance of multiple-entry visas valid for up to 5 years for diplomatic, service, student and other trips made between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the United States. Kazakhstan was the first CIS country to enter into such a visa program with the United States.

In summary, it can confidently be stated that the close cooperation between Kazakhstan and the United States in various fields not only contributes to the prosperity of the young state of Kazakhstan, but also becomes an important factor of stability and security in Central Asia and the Caspian region.

Towards a new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Kazakhstan and the European Union

European Union and its many specialized structures play an important role in the foreign policy priorities of Kazakhstan. February 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and the European Union.

In particular, there has been an intensive political dialogue between Astana and Brussels. From 29-30 November, 2012 and 5-6 April, 2013, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton visited Kazakhstan. On 2-3 June, 2013, the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, made the first official visit to the country.

An important role in bringing together Astana and Brussels has been made by the EU-Kazakhstan Co-operation Committee. From 9-10 October, 2013 the 13th session of this important mechanism was held in Astana.

Kazakhstan attaches special importance to the development of inter-parliamentary dialogue. In particular, the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee “The Republic of Kazakhstan – European Union” meetings are held annually. This Committee, in force since 2000, is an effective dialogue platform to discuss critical issues of Kazakhstan-EU relations.

Kazakhstan in particular values the attention of the European Parliament to its domestic and foreign policy. Examples of the European Parliament’s consideration of Kazakhstan policy can been seen in the resolution of the European Parliament on Kazakhstan after the special hearings on the tragic events in Zhanaozen, adopted on the 15th of March, 2012, as well as a quite strict resolution passed by the European Parliament concerning human rights in Kazakhstan, adopted on the 25th of April, 2013.

Undoubtedly, Kazakhstan does not always share a categorical and politicized evaluation by the European Parliament, but the country does intend to continue to work with its European partners in the spheres of   freedom, security and justice. Kazakhstan is not going to evade open, and at times, tough, dialogue on human rights issues. At the same time, we intend to continue the dialogue on the liberalization of mutual travel of citizens between Kazakhstan and the European Union.

Realizing that the convergence of Central Asia and the European Union cannot and should not be a one-way street, Kazakhstan has developed a state program entitled ‘Path to Europe’ (2009-2011). Through the implementation of this program, the European Union has become the largest trade partner of Kazakhstan; today it accounts for 49.7% of the total foreign trade turnover of Kazakhstan and 60% of foreign direct investment in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is interested in further deepening of the energy dialogue with the European Union. Kazakhstan is the third largest supplier of energy to Europe (from non-OPEC members) after Russia and Norway. Thus, Kazakhstan has made a major contribution to the sustainable energy balance of the European Union. Further ways to strengthen energy dialogue between the EU and the Republic of Kazakhstan were discussed during the 5th meeting of experts on the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in the Field of Energy on the 25th of April, 2013.

A realistic and positive approach by the European Union to the conditions of accession of Kazakhstan to the WTO would be welcomed by Kazakhstan. At the same time, we intend to continue an active dialogue with our European partners to foster full recognition of the market status of the Kazakhstan economy under anti-dumping investigations.

Importance is also attached to the EU’s actions in the field of regional trade development, disaster management, the fight against illegal drug trafficking and border management in Central Asia. April 2013 marked the 10 year since the start of the BOMCA, which has been aimed at strengthening the technical and human capacities of law enforcement agencies, the modernization of border infrastructure and strengthening anti-drug potential of Central Asia.

Currently, the implementation of the ‘European Union – Central Asia’ Strategy until 2013 is in its final stage. In this regard, on the 12th of October 2011, Astana and Brussels launched formal negotiations on the conclusion of a basic Agreement on Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU. It should be emphasized that Kazakhstan is the only country in Central Asia which has begun negotiations on the conclusion of the Agreement on the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation, due in part to the positive dynamics of the country’s development.

Prospects of the Kazakhstan-NATO Strategic Dialogue

Since 2002, Kazakhstan has participated in NATO’s ‘Planning and Review Process’ (PARP), and since 2004 has participated in the ‘Operational Capabilities Concept’ (OCC). In 2006, Kazakhstan began implementation of the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) which aims to harmonize all aspects of cooperation with NATO. Currently, the third cycle of IPAP is at its final stage proposed for 2012

An independent Kazakhstan is interested in the maximum proximity of its armed forces to NATO standards and the speedy achievement of interoperability. It is no coincidence, we attach particular importance to the participation in joint military exercises with NATO (‘Steppe Eagle’, ‘Search for Khan’, ‘Cooperative Longbow’, ‘Viking’, ‘Amber Hope’, Combined Endeavour’, ‘Challenge’, ‘Regional Cooperation’, etc.), aimed at sharing experience in the planning, implementation and comprehensive support of various military operations.

Cooperation with NATO is of particular importance in light of Kazakhstan’s intentions to send its peacekeeping unit in one of the missions of the United Nations. In this regard, the Ministry of Defense of Kazakhstan is working intensively on the creation of an appropriate legislative framework. Cooperation with NATO on this issue has achieved positive results. Thus, on the 3rd of October 2013 in Almaty, during the annual conference under the ‘CPC’ program, it was announced that the Kazakhstan peacekeeper unit KAZBAT is operationally compatible and ready to participate in UN peacekeeping operations in cooperation with international units.

Kazakhstan closely and productively cooperates with NATO on the Afghan settlement issue. Currently, Kazakhstan provides active assistance to NATO states on transit of non-military cargo from Afghanistan via Shymkent and Aktau seaport. At the same time, Kazakhstan is making considerable efforts towards a political settlement in Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning that Kazakhstan is implementing sufficient scale infrastructure and humanitarian projects aimed at accelerating the reconstruction of Afghanistan as a peaceful, stable and prosperous state. From 2009-2012, Kazakhstan invested more than $240 million U.S. towards the stabilization of Afghanistan.

Currently, Kazakhstan is ready to bring its cooperation and involvement to a new level, and in this regard welcomes the resumption of the NATO officer for cooperation in the region. The close strategic dialogue of Kazakhstan and NATO will contribute to regional security in a difficult international situation.

Kazakhstan and the OSCE: a synergy of cooperation

The Republic of Kazakhstan intends to continue to develop all-round cooperation with the OSCE, which has played an invaluable role in strengthening global and regional security. Successful chairmanship in the OSCE in 2010, culminating with the VII Summit in Astana, not only made our country closer to European and international standards, but also breathed new life into the Organization itself, once again fostering its position as a major global player.

Today Kazakhstan is deeply involved in the activities of the OSCE, developing and deepening approaches set forth in the Astana Declaration ‘Towards a Security Community’. During its chairmanship, Kazakhstan has achieved the inclusion of Central Asia in the definition of ‘European security’.

Kazakhstan would welcome and support the Helsinki +40 Process, which is aimed at strengthening the OSCE prior to the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in 2015. It is Kazakhstan’s opinion that this document has not lost its relevance and continues to have a positive impact on the world and regional politics.

Kazakhstan is firmly convinced that, given the realities of the 21st century, the OSCE that should seriously deal with critical issues of global and regional security, without giving them at the mercy of other international organizations and centers of power.

Thus, in the politico-military dimension of the OSCE, Kazakhstan attaches great importance to the timely and full implementation of its international obligations under the Vienna Document 2011 on confidence-building and security measures. Kazakhstan believes that OSCE should contribute to the solution in the question of the threats emanating from Afghanistan, especially given plans for the withdrawal of the ISAF coalition troops from Afghanistan in 2014. Efforts to prevent the destabilization within the OSCE should be doubled, although the OSCE is not authorized to operate outside its geographical area of responsibility.

In the context of the economic and environmental dimension of the OSCE, Kazakhstan took an active part in the preparation and conduct of the 21st Economic and Environmental Forum of the OSCE on ‘Increasing Stability and Security: Improving the Environmental Footprint of Energy-Related Activities in the OSCE Region’ (Prague, 11-13 September, 2013). Kazakhstan calls for support for an initiative to develop a global strategy for energy security and environmental sustainability and partnership program ‘Green Bridge’, which is a multilateral platform for the transfer of technology and investments, as well as ‘green’ technologies in the field of alternative energy sources. The OSCE could serve as a platform for cooperation for the members of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian institutions regarding these important issues. Another promising platform for multilateral mutually beneficial cooperation on environmental security could possibly be EXPO 2017 to be held in Astana under the theme ‘Future Energy’.

Kazakhstan attaches special importance to the humanitarian dimension of the OSCE. New impetus in this area was the election of our country into the UN Human Rights Council, which is the recognition of Kazakhstan’s achievements. At the same time, Kazakhstan pays special attention to the development of tolerance and non-discrimination. In this regard, Kazakhstan shall continue the policy of sharing Kazakhstan’s experience in the sphere of inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue, accumulated by the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan.

Given the ongoing debate about the mission of the OSCE/ODIHR on election observation, Kazakhstan suggests a careful consideration of the recommendations contained in the final report of the Panel of Eminent Persons, published in 2005. It is necessary, in particular, to focus on standards of election observation, applying the same criteria and methodology which can ensure objectivity, transparency and professionalism of the observation missions. Finally, Kazakhstan supports the idea of   transforming the OSCE into a full-fledged international organization, but this requires political will of all OSCE member states.

From a zero-sum game to a win-win partnership

Kazakhstan, as well as all the countries of Central Asia, highly needs peace, security, cooperation and stability. However, these lofty goals may be unattainable if those who took on the mission of international security remain entrenched in the mindset of the Cold War. In this regard, the time of the ‘dividing lines’ in Central Asia should become a thing of the past. Global players, international organizations and the military-political blocs have to part with the strategies of the ‘Great Game’ or zero-sum game. Today, when it has become apparent to the whole world that the security concept is indivisible, it is time to move to a strategy of mutually beneficial partnership (win-win partnership). The new architecture of security in Central Asia should be based on mutual trust and constructive cooperation of all stakeholders.

That is why Kazakhstan strongly urges its leading foreign partners for early establishment of a common Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security platform. In this regard, it is vital as soon as possible to establish a dialogue between all the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian institutions: the OSCE, NATO, EU, SCO, CSTO, CICA and others, for the sake of strengthening regional and global security.

Kazakhstan considers the lack of meaningful dialogue between the CSTO and NATO as an inexcusable luxury at a time when these organizations, in particular, are crucial to the further development of the situation in Afghanistan. The policy of non-recognition of the CSTO by NATO gradually becomes counterproductive and creates serious difficulties for foreign policy of the Central Asian states.

Kazakhstan condemns situations where global powers wittingly or unwittingly pushing the regional states to do the so-called ‘final geopolitical choice’, de facto trenching on the loss of national sovereignty. In this regard, Kazakhstan does not intend to exchange its long-term interests for short-term benefits and will participate only in those projects, partnerships and institutions that do not call into question its independence and sovereignty. Most importantly, the creation of a common platform for the Eurasian and Euro-Atlantic security will allow a fresh look at existing and emerging integration projects.

EU, Customs Union and the various structures of the APR will be not so much competitors, but strong links in a single chain of transcontinental trade and economic cooperation.

Kazakhstan is well aware that the creation of a common platform for the Eurasian and Euro-Atlantic security is not a matter of one day. It would require all countries and organizations for political courage, brave decisions, patience and sustained efforts. However, there is no other way, if we are truly committed to common goals and to jointly implementing common interests.

In conclusion, it is clear that the transatlantic vector will continue to be a priority in the foreign policy of an independent Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s course for a strong and reliable strategic partnership with the transatlantic community will remain unchanged and will not be affected by the changing geopolitical situation.

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