08ASTANA2252, KAZAKHSTAN: ATYRAU AKIM EAGER FOR UNBIASED NEWS, ANXIOUS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA2252 2008-11-14 07:30 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO0854
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW
RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV
RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2252/01 3190730
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 140730Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3828
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0803
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0202
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0912
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 0112
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2037
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2370
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0367
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0284
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 0910

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 002252 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, EEB/ESC, SCA/PPD, IIP 
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USTDA DAN STEIN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON EPET EINV SOCI KPAO KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  ATYRAU AKIM EAGER FOR UNBIASED NEWS, ANXIOUS 
ABOUT FINANCIAL CRISIS 
 
ASTANA 00002252  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  On November 11, the Ambassador held his first 
meeting with Atyrau oblast governor (Akim) Bergey Ryskaliyev, a 
41-year old former oil company director appointed in October 2006. 
Ryskaliyev greeted the Ambassador warmly and welcomed him to the 
"strategically important" city of Atyrau, the capital of 
Kazakhstan's oil-rich north Caspian region.  He spoke Russian slowly 
and softly throughout the meeting, choosing his words with 
deliberate care and demonstrated both curiosity and currency with 
events in the United States, especially the Presidential election 
and the financial crisis.  Ryskaliyev shared his vision for the 
future of Kazakhstan with the Ambassador and pleaded for more 
objective information about the United States than that coming from 
Russian television.  Before leaving Atyrau, the Ambassador visited a 
vocational school for orphans supported by a local civil society 
organization, Tengizchevroil (TCO), and Chevron.  END SUMMARY. 
 
AKIM WELCOMES U.S. INVESTMENT, ACKNOWLEDGES OUTSTANDING ISSUES 
 
3.  (SBU) Ryskaliyev said the oblast appreciates the investment of 
U.S. oil companies Chevron, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips, but 
noted that he would like to see U.S. investment in other sectors 
such as agriculture, construction, and fishing.  He praised TCO, in 
which Chevron (50%) and ExxonMobil (25%) have large stakes, for its 
investment in social infrastructure and development projects.  "Of 
course," he said, "we have issues with TCO and other companies from 
time to time, but we work with them directly and resolve our 
problems at the local level."  Rather than reviewing these issues in 
detail during their first meeting, the Ambassador broadened the 
discussion and encouraged the Akim to come to him if the local 
government had an unresolvable issue with a U.S. company.  This (for 
the first and only time during the meeting) seemed to make an 
impression on Ryskaliyev, who took out his pen to make a note of the 
offer. 
 
THE AKIM'S VISION FOR KAZAKHSTAN 
 
4.  (SBU) When asked to describe his vision for Kazakhstan over the 
next ten years, the Akim struggled slightly, searching for 
statistics and specifics, until he confessed that the current crisis 
made it difficult to deliver a prognosis.  Ryskaliyev said that he 
would rather wait a year before making predictions, although he 
suggested that the region's oil and gas wealth would shelter it 
somewhat from the storm.  The Ambassador gently pressed the point, 
asking the Akim what kind of country would he like Kazakhstan to 
become and how could the United States help Kazakhstan get there. 
Ryskaliyev relaxed and opened up, saying he shared President 
Nazarbayev's goal to make Kazakhstan one of the 50 most competitive 
countries in the world, as well as his pledge to implement 
democratic reforms and demonstrate broader leadership when it 
assumes the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010.  Ryskaliyev also 
praised the government's Bolashak ("future" in Kazakh) student 
exchange program, noting that Atyrau oblast has agreed with resident 
oil companies to sponsor 20-25 exchange students to the U.S. in 
2009.  "This program trains Kazakhstan's future leaders," he said. 
 
"THE DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM WORKS" 
 
5.  (SBU) Ryskaliyev warmly congratulated the Ambassador on the 
election of a new U.S. president, commenting that the process was 
transparent and fair -- and the result, historic.  "It shows that 
anyone, regardless of personal wealth or skin color, can become 
President in the United States," he observed.  "It proves that the 
democratic system works."  Ryskaliyev nevertheless revealed a 
cynical side when he wondered if, with so many difficult economic 
and military challenges now facing the country, the President-elect 
was deliberately set up to fail so that no other African-American 
would be elected President in the future.  Ryskaliyev asked whether 
 
ASTANA 00002252  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
and how U.S. policy toward Europe and Russia was likely to change
 
under the new administration, then closed on an upbeat note, saying 
that President-elect Obama appeared to have the right outlook and 
energy for the job.  "Personality matters a great deal," he said. 
 
A PLEA FOR OBJECTIVE NEWS ABOUT THE UNITED STATES 
 
6.  (SBU) Ryskaliyev clearly followed the presidential election 
campaign closely.  When asked where he got most of his information 
about the United States, Ryskaliyev said Russian TV, Euronews (which 
broadcasts in Russian), and the BBC (which broadcasts in English), 
although he admitted that he watches BBC rarely because his English 
is poor, despite the fact that his entire family speaks English and 
one of his children studies at Cambridge University.  Ryskaliyev 
then surprised us by saying that he wishes there were more objective 
reporting about the United States than that coming from Russia. 
"Ninety-five percent of people here believe what they see and hear 
on the television," he said, virtually pleading for an alternative 
news source.  "The younger generation of political leaders is 
particularly eager for information about the United States that does 
not come from Russia," he said. 
 
SERIOUS CONCERN ABOUT THE FINANCIAL CRISIS 
 
7.  (SBU) The financial crisis is of serious concern to Ryskaliyev 
and his administration.  "This crisis really worries us," he said, 
noting that although the United States is far from Kazakhstan, there 
are bound to be implications for his country if not his region.  The 
Ambassador reassured the Akim, noting that both TCO and AgipKCO, 
which manages the Kashagan consortium, had reassured him that they 
and their partners had sufficient capital on hand to meet all of 
their commitments, and they did not expect the crisis to impact 
either project. 
 
VOCATIONAL SCHOOL VISIT 
 
8.  (SBU) While in Atyrau, the Ambassador also toured a vocational 
school for orphaned and abandoned children established by a local 
non-governmental organization called Young Achievement.  TCO and 
Chevron have provided financial support since 2007.  The program 
provides after-school vocational training to both boys and girls age 
14-18 in skills such as electrical wiring, bricklaying, welding, and 
crane operating.  The students were predominantly Kazakh, although a 
significant minority were ethnic Russians.  Young Achievement 
Director Nataliya Strunyasheva, herself an ethnic Russian, noted 
that Kazakhstan suffers from a shortage of skilled labor, which this 
program will help to address.  More importantly, she said, it gives 
children with no hope Qa sad fate the opportunity to acquire a 
lifelong skill that giveQhem thQeans and the confidence to build 
a better life.  "TCO's support and initiative have been priceless," 
she said.  According to TCO, the company has provided more than $380 
million to various social, health, and infrastructure projects in 
Kazakhstan during the past 15 years. 
 
9.  (SBU) COMMENT:  Atyrau Akim Ryskaliyev clearly follows political 
and economic events in the United States carefully and is a young 
and influential leader.  We should listen carefully to his lament 
that there are few objective, Russian-language sources of 
information about the United States and take seriously his claim 
that other young leaders are eager for such information.  CNN or BBC 
broadcasts in Russian could conceivably have a major impact on the 
development of Kazakhstan's future leaders.  At a bare minimum, we 
need to expand drastically the Russian-language Washington File. 
END COMMENT. 
 
HOAGLAND

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