Kazakhstan–United States relations
The United States and the Republic of Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations on December 16, 1991. Since 1991, the U.S.-Kazakhstan bilateral relationship has been constructive and comprehensive. The United States was a critical player in assisting Kazakhstan get rid of its strategic nuclear weapons stockpile and dismantle its nuclear weapons infrastructure between 1991 and 1996 through the provision of Nunn-Lugar Comprehensive Threat Reduction (CTR) assistance. Between 1992 and 2008, cumulative CTR assistance to Kazakhstan has amounted to $341 million. At the “2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit” in March 2012, Presidents Obama and Nazarbayev reaffirmed bilateral cooperation in the areas of nuclear nonproliferation. President Obama went on to say, "The close relationship between our two countries extends beyond just the nuclear security issue, so this meeting will give us an opportunity to discuss the cooperation that we have built over the last several years with respect to Afghanistan and the help we've received in supplying our troops and helping to assist the Afghan government."
In addition to nuclear nonproliferation, the U.S. and Kazakhstan maintain strategic economic and political relations. The U.S. oil company, Chevron, became the first major investor in Kazakhstan in 1993 with the establishment of the TengizChevroil joint venture. Through the Bolashak Program, Kazakh students study overseas. Currently, there are over 3,000 Bolashak students around the world of which 800 are studying in 42 universities throughout the United States.
Cooperation strengthened after the September 11, 2001 attacks as the United States sought strategic partners near Afghanistan, and later near Iraq, nations whose governments aided and abetted terrorism in both Kazakhstan and the United States. Counter-terrorism plays an increasingly important role in Kazakhstan's relations with the United States and the United Kingdom, which are at an all time high. Kazakhstan has taken Uzbekistan's place as the favored partner in Central Asia for both Russia and the United States in the New Great Game.
On July 8–10, 2013 Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov paid an official visit to the United States and held meetings with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Adviser Anthony Blinken, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. In his talks with high ranking U.S. officials the two sides highlighted the robust and growing bilateral ties between Kazakhstan and the United States and reaffirmed their commitment to further deepen the strategic partnership.
Minister Idrissov spoke on the phone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on July 11, 2013. During their conversation, Secretary Kerry thanked Kazakhstan for its contributions to the stabilization of Afghanistan including support for the Afghan National Security Forces and the social and economic reconstruction of the country. He also praised the leadership of Kazakhstan in the region, stressing the leading role of Kazakhstan in the field of nuclear disarmament. Secretary Kerry expressed gratitude to Kazakhstan for hosting two rounds of international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program in Almaty.
- 1 Strategic Partnership Dialogue
- 2 Trade & Business
- 3 Human Rights
- 4 Rule of Law
- 5 Military & Security Cooperation
- 6 Bilateral Meetings
- 7 Response to the September 11, 2001 attacks
- 8 Guantanamo Bay detainees
- 9 Idrisov-Rushailo declaration
- 10 United States air bases
- 11 Secretary of State visits
- 12 Kazakh journalists visit to Los Angeles
- 13 Visit of Cadets from Naval Academy of Maryland to Kazakhstan's Embassy in Washington DC
- 14 See also
- 15 References
- 16 External links
Strategic Partnership Dialogue
The Strategic Partnership Dialogue is a bilateral dialogue between Kazakhstan and the United States covering wide-ranging discussions on bilateral and regional issues. The first SPD was held in Washington on April 9–10, 2012; the second was held in Washington on July 9, 2013. Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are the co-chairs the Strategic Partnership Dialogue.
Ambassador Kairat Umarov provided an update to the SPD in a March 24, 2014 opinion piece in The Astana Times titled Kazakhstan-U.S. Strategic Partnership on the Rise.
The second bilateral Strategic Partnership Dialogue talks yielded agreement for continued cooperation on a range of issues:
Afghanistan and Regional Integration
The United States welcomes Kazakhstan’s leadership role in supporting security in Afghanistan and the region, including through its assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces and contribution to the Istanbul Process. The United States values Kazakhstan’s $50 million scholarship program to educate one thousand Afghan students in Kazakhstan’s universities. The United States welcomes Kazakhstan’s economic connectivity efforts, in particular, its investments in regional infrastructure such as the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan railroad and the Caspian seaport of Aktau. The United States and Kazakhstan will continue to work closely together to support stability, peace, and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region.
In a June 2014 interview with KazakhTV in Almaty, Fatema Z. Sumar, the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, said that Kazakhstan had an important role in supporting the region, specially Afghanistan, transition towards stability and prosperity.
Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation
President Obama has repeatedly emphasized Kazakhstan’s important leadership role in global nuclear disarmament. The United States and Kazakhstan reaffirmed their shared commitment to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Threat reduction and nonproliferation remain a cornerstone of US-KZ joint efforts to ensure global and regional security. The United States welcomes Kazakhstan’s efforts to establish a regional Nuclear Security Training Center in Kazakhstan. The United States continues to support Kazakhstan’s offer to host an IAEA Low-Enriched Uranium Bank.
During the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague, Presidents Obama and Nazarbayev issued a joint statement confirming their shared commitment to nonproliferation and strengthening nuclear security.
The Joint Statement went on to state: "The United States of America welcomes the Republic of Kazakhstan’s activities to strengthen nuclear security and implement decisions of the Washington and Seoul Nuclear Security Summits, including by converting the VVR-K research reactor at the Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP) to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel, downblending the INP’s highly enriched uranium (HEU) material and removing the HEU spent fuel from the reactor. The United States and Kazakhstan will continue to work together to convert Kazakhstan’s remaining HEU reactors to LEU fuel and eliminate all remaining HEU research reactor fuel as soon as technically feasible."
The United States and Kazakhstan have many common interests in the field of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. On August 29, 1991, when Nursultan Nazarbayev closed down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, it has been a world leader in the movement for non-proliferation. In this capacity it has worked closely with Washington to advance non-proliferation further. In 2006 it joined with its Central Asian neighbors Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to affirm that the entire region would forever be a nuclear weapons free zone. To be sure, the U.S. initially opposed this out of fear that it would exclude the transport of nuclear material across the region, but in the end this step, too, earned strong endorsements from Washington. Beyond this, Kazakhstan has educated a younger generation that is open to the world, clearly oriented towards free and legal markets, and eager to participate in the affairs of their government through normal democratic channels.
Nuclear Security Training Center
The United States is working with Kazakhstan to develop a Nuclear Security Training Center (NSTC) in order to improve indigenous security and safeguards training capabilities for all nuclear facilities in Kazakhstan. U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) support includes constructing and equipping the NSTC as well as curriculum development for physical protection and material control and accounting specialists. The current projected completion date is before the end of 2015. The United States, led by the Department of State and in coordination with the Departments of Energy and Defense, is collaborating with Kazakhstan to develop a counter nuclear smuggling curriculum at the Center and other related nuclear security training.
Highly Enriched Uranium Removals
The United States has been working with Kazakhstan to eliminate its excess Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) since the completion of Project Sapphire in 1994, when the two countries cooperated to remove and ship to the United States approximately 600 kilograms of HEU from Kazakhstan. In recent years, the US Department of Energy / National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) has returned almost 75 kilograms of HEU spent fuel to Russia and has downblended all remaining fresh HEU (33 kilograms) in-country. Once the final three research reactors are converted to LEU, (DOE/NNSA) will work with Kazakhstan to return the remaining 85 kg of HEU at these facilities to the Russian Federation for disposition. The next shipment will take place in late 2014 from the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Alatau.
HEU and Plutonium Security and Disposition
The United States has worked with Kazakhstan to complete the transportation of 10 metric tons of HEU and 3 metric tons of plutonium – enough material to make 775 nuclear weapons – from the Kazakhstan BN-350 facility in Aktau to a secure facility in the northeastern part of the country. Currently, Kazakhstan is in the processing of performing a feasibility study to evaluate options for final disposition of this material.
The United States and Kazakhstan affirmed their continued collaboration in support of stability in the region, including through our joint efforts on counterterrorism. Our commitment to security cooperation is demonstrated by activities such as U.S. support for Kazakhstan’s peacekeeping brigade KAZBAT and the annual military exercise Steppe Eagle.
Democracy and Development
The United States and Kazakhstan reaffirmed the importance of democratic development and efforts to strengthen representative institutions such as an independent media and local self-government. Both sides acknowledged the importance of a vibrant and varied civil society during the Strategic Partnership Dialogue roundtable on governance and human rights with non-governmental organizations. The United States welcomes Kazakhstan’s efforts to establish a national development assistance agency, KazAID.
Kazakhstan is the first country in Central Asia to have a national system of ODA (official development assistance). The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) expressed its hope that the establishment of the KazAID would help build a more stable and secure environment.
Trade & Business
According to the US diplomatic mission in Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan provides trade and investment prospects for U.S. firms seeking new opportunities in one of the most dynamic of the emerging markets. The US Chamber of Commerce produces each year the commercial guide for US companies.
United States - Kazakhstan Convention
The Kazakhstan - US Convention took place in Washington, DC on December 11, 2013. The theme of the 2014 Convention was Successful Strategic Partnership. It centered on moving forward the existing partnership between Kazakhstan and the United States, increasing strategic cooperation and opening new opportunities for long-term initiatives between American and Kazakhstan.
The 2013 convention was attended by several members of the US Congress, including Senator Kelly Ayotte, Representative Henry Cuellar, TX, Representative Jim Bridenstine, OK, Representative Ted Poe, TX, Representative Dana Rohrabacher, CA, Representative Steve Stockman, TX, Representative Leonard Lance , NJ, Representative Bill Pascrell, NJ, Representative Mike Fitzpatrick , PA, Representative Rob Andrews, NJ, Representative Michelle L. Grisham, NM, Representative Pete Olson, TX, Representative Pete Gallego, TX, Representative Mark Meadows, NC, Representative Chris Gibson, NY, Representative Doug Collins, GA, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, NY, Representative Grace Meng, NY, Representative Stephen Lynch, MA, Representative Corrine Brown, FL, and Representative Donna Edward, MD.
The United States and Kazakhstan have affirmed their work in the area of human rights. In 2013, the Kazakhstan Commission for Children’s Rights Protection and the General Prosecutor’s office met with Special Advisor for Children’s Issues of the U.S. Department of State Susan Jacobs to discuss the underground online network of adopting children and have created a commission to crack down on these illicit adoption rings. The US will be providing information to Kazakhstan on those networks and help understand the living conditions of adopted Kazakh children in the United States.
Rule of Law
The Rule of Law Initiative of the American Bar Association has programs to train justice sector professionals in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court has taken recent steps to modernize and to increase transparency and oversight over the country’s legal system. With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) began a new program in April 2012 to strengthen the independence and accountability of Kazakhstan’s judiciary.
The Procurator General of Kazakhstan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation collaborated in a complex seven year investigation into a February 11, 2006 triple homicide of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, Baurzhan Baibosyn, and Vasiliy Zhuravlev. The ranking American diplomat in Kazakhstan, Ambassador John Ordway, praised in a press conference the "exceptional cooperation" between Kazakhstani and American law enforcement. Ambassador Ordway emphasized that the FBI's investigation was independent from the Procurator General's office, and the FBI had full and immediate access all materials and information."
Justice Sector Institutional Strengthening Project
The Justice Sector Institutional Strengthening Project, a project to strengthen judicial services in Kazakhstan and to improve the key legal and rule of law environment, will receive a $36 million loan from the World Bank Group.
Military & Security Cooperation
Reportedly responding to a U.S. appeal, the Kazakhstani legislature in May 2003 approved sending military engineers to assist in coalition operations in Iraq. The 27 troops trained Iraqis in de-mining and water purification. They pulled out of Iraq in late 2008. Since 2009, Kazakhstan has permitted air and land transit for U.S. and NATO troops and equipment—as part of the Northern Distribution Network—to support stabilization operations in Afghanistan.
For almost a decade, thousands of service members and civilians from more than 15 nations have converged on the Republic of Kazakhstan for Exercise Steppe Eagle. More than 1,000 participants from six countries are invited to be a part of the multinational, peacekeeping exercise at Camp Illisky (a training facility outside Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty).
During the second Iraq War, Kazakhstani troops dismantled 4 million mines and other explosives, and help provide medical care to more than 5,000 coalition members and civilians, and purified 718 cubic meters of water.
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Erzhan Ashikbayev visited the USA on June 10–12, 2014 where he met with the leadership of the White House, State Department, United States Congress, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, as well as with representatives of the U.S. export and business community.
Meeting of Nursultan Nazarbayev with the U.S. Congressmen
President Nursultan Nazarbayev met with the members of the United States Congress Dana Rohrabacher and Gregory Meeks on Sept. 5, 2014 in Borovoye, 250 kilometres north from the Kazakh capital. The U.S. congressmen expressed hope for further strengthening of the mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries.
Also on Sept. 5, the U.S. congressmen had a meeting with Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov. With Idrissov, who spent five years as Kazakhstan’s ambassador in Washington, they discussed the current state and outlook for cooperation between Kazakhstan and the United States in political, economic and trade areas.
The congressmen discussed the readiness jointly with U.S. businesses to offer shared projects in non-oil sectors of Kazakhstan economy. The American side also supported Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO and the economic development strategy of the country. The two sides underlined their cooperation in global security issues, primarily in non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and regional security issues, including the situation in Afghanistan.
Response to the September 11, 2001 attacks
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev sent a message to U.S. President George W. Bush expressing "indignation about terrorist acts that resulted in loss of numerous lives." The "civilized community must unite and take effective measures to fight international terrorism. All the Kazakhstan people sympathize with the American people in their grief and mourn aver [sic] the tragedy."
According to the Center for Defense Information, the Kazakh government has been "extremely supportive [of] the U.S.-led war against terrorism." The government offered the use of a major airport for Operation Enduring Freedom. Over 800 U.S. flights over Kazakh territory were approved and went ahead. CDI's profile of Kazakhstan credits security forces for "step[ing] up efforts to protect U.S. government facilities and oil facilities with U.S. private investment" and pledging to "freeze the assets of terrorists identified on the U.S. designated terrorist asset-freeze list." The U.S. officially gave the Kazakh government USD $52.893 million in 2002, $47 million in 2003, and $36.2 million in 2004. In addition, U.S. Government agencies spent $92 million in assistance programs in Kazakhstan in 2003.
In a speech given on December 19, 2001 at the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council during the Defence Ministers session, Mukhtar Altynbayev, the Kazakh Minister of Defense and General of the Kazakh Army, said the attacks "demonstrated that international terrorism has no borders and represents a threat to all the world community." He reaffirmed Kazakhstan's will to fight terrorism and the need to "punish" terrorists and their sponsors. Addressing the possibility, raised by NATO experts, of using Kazakh airfields for counterterrorist operations, he said there were "other practical issues under consideration," but that Kazakhstan would commit to providing humanitarian assistance to Afghans.
On September 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the attacks, the Astana Congress issued a Declaration on Religion, Society and International Security, promoting working "together to tackle and ultimately eliminate prejudice, ignorance and misrepresentation of other religions. These common views include the condemnation of terrorism on the basis that justice can never be established through fear and bloodshed and that the use of such means is a violation and betrayal of any faith that appeals to human goodness and dialogue." President Nazarbayev said at the conference, "An ideology of tolerance and dialogue must confront the ideology of terrorism. The global nature of interfaith contradictions and religious dialogue allows us to think that (the) U.N. will declare one of the following years (the) International Year of Religious and Cultural Tolerance. We should endeavor best efforts in order to root out ideology of terrorism and maintain material values of humanism... There hardly exists something in the world comparable to potential of religion."
Guantanamo Bay detainees
Three Kazakh citizens, Yaqub Abahanov, Abdulrahim Kerimbakiev, and Abdallah Tohtasinovich Magrupov, all born in Semey, are held in extrajudicial detention in the United States' Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, in Cuba for alleged ties to the Taliban. Additionally, Uzbek citizen and Guantánamo captive Ilkham Turdbyavich Batayev's birthplace is Abaye, Kazakhstan.
Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov told journalists in Almaty on 18 September 2001, seven days after the September 11 attacks in New York City, New York that Kazakhstan and Russia are "ready for close cooperation with the United States in combating extremism." The statement came after President Nazarbayev, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, and the heads of Kazakh law enforcement bodies finished negotiations in security cooperation. The meeting and Secretary Rushailo's overall tour through Central Asia were a response to the attacks in New York and the now acknowledged threat of international terrorism and extremism originating from the area.
United States air bases
In 2002 a Chinese diplomat accused the United States Government of trying to secure a defunct air base, originally used by the Soviet Union specifically for theoretical military operations against China, near Semey in eastern Kazakhstan. A high-ranking Kazakh Defense Ministry official said the U.S. Government, as part of its anti-terrorism operations in Central Asia, had requested the use of military bases in Taraz and Taldykorgan. Ibragim Alibekov, a journalist for Radio Free Europe, characterized President Nursultan Nazarbayev's support for the "anti-terrorism campaign" as cautious and "hesitant on the implementation of concrete cooperation measures." However, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry applauds Kazakhstan for playing "a vital role in U.S.-led efforts to combat international terrorism." President Bush called Kazakhstan a "strategic partner of the United States in Central Asia" and said the United States wanted to expand anti-terrorism cooperation.
An anonymous expert within the Kazakh Defense Ministry said that "of all the assistance [Kazakhstan] can offer towards military counter-terrorism operations—allowing use of our airfields, opening air corridors and sharing intelligence information—the last would be the least risky for Kazakhstan. Allowing the use of airfields means going into direct confrontation with the Taliban, and that is not a good scenario in our situation." An anonymous, high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said "the influx of refugees" created by U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan "is one problem, but the greater problem is that terrorists and militants might flee northward disguised as civilians." Professor Murat Abdirov, director of the International Relations Institute of Eurasian University, said, "Kazakhstan cannot stay away from the international anti-terrorism coalition, but we should proceed with caution."
The Kazakh government did offer the use of a major airport for military operations, but three years later, with U.S. military operations against the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan continuing, General John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, said on 3 May 2005 that the United States did not "expect to open a military base in Kazakhstan unless a tense situation emerges in the region, under which the Kazakh government requests the U.S. armed forces to do so."
Secretary of State visits
United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Kazakhstan on 12–13 October 2005. Secretary Rice met with Nazarbayev, opposition Chairman Zharmakhan Tuyakbay, and opposition leader Alikhan Baimenov in Astana. Nazarbayev told the press that he and Rice "noted with satisfaction our cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Peace became so fragile that such evils as terrorism, drug addiction and AIDS can be fought only through joint efforts." Rice applauded Nazarbayev's foreign policy and called Kazakhstan an "island of stability" in Central Asian and a "key partner of the U.S. in strengthening stability and security." She also thanked the President for its contributions to the invasion of Iraq, which Rice referred to as proof of "high level cooperation in the field of security and [the] fight against terrorism."
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger arrived in Astana on 15 October, just two days after Rice's visit, and he also met with Nazarbayev. Kissinger said he believed the U.S. had a "good understanding with Kazakhstan [on] security... The fact that high ranked officials have regularly been visiting Kazakhstan lately shows that [the United States Government is] keen to broaden this cooperation."
Kazakh journalists visit to Los Angeles
Sabir Kairkhanov, editor-in-chief of Ak Zhaiyk, Botagoz Akzholovna Seidakhmetova, international news editor of Novoye Pokoleniye, and Dossym Satpayev, director of Assessment Risks Group, an NGO which publishes Kazakhstan Risk Review visited the University of California, Los Angeles on 1 August as part of a three-week tour of the U.S. in an attempt to gain insight on the War on Terrorism. They met with political science and economics professor Michael Intriligator who told the delegation about the possibility of terrorist attacks targeting the U.S. Navy. The journalists noted that in Kazakhstan new courses about terrorism have been added to universities' curricula and Urban terrorism, a book mostly about terrorists in Almaty, has been published. They also discussed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The visitors all ranked Al Qaeda as the 8th greatest terrorist-danger in Kazakhstan. Professor Intriligator said it is "absolutely premature to say that we have won the War against Terrorism. We are not any safer now than we were before September 11."
Around 60 cadets from the Naval Academy of Maryland visited the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington's Open Day at the beginning of October, 2014. Embassy staff briefed the cadets on Kazakhstan's foreign, defense and economic policies as well as rich historic heritage. The officers were interested in learning more about the cooperation opportunities, Baikonur space launch center and tourism sites. Three Kazakh students study at the Academy in 2014.
- Kazakh Americans
- Foreign relations of Kazakhstan
- Foreign relations of the United States
- Institute for New Democracies
- Petroleum politics
- Russia - Kazakhstan relations
- Russia – United States relations
- Terrorism in Kazakhstan
- War on Terror
- United States oil politics
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