08ASTANA2577, KAZAKHSTAN: ASTANA-BASED AMBASSADORS AGREE: “DEMOCRACY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA2577 2008-12-31 08:05 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO7743
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW
RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV
RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2577/01 3660805
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 310805Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4248
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0996
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0395
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1101
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0567
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0470
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 002577 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM OSCE KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  ASTANA-BASED AMBASSADORS AGREE: "DEMOCRACY 
MUST BE HOMEGROWN" 
 
REFS: 
A) ASTANA 2399 
B) ASTANA 2398 
C) ASTANA 2256 
D) USOSCE 0304 (NOTAL) 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) This is the third in a series of cables analyzing 
reactions to Kazakhstan's OSCE Madrid-commitment legislation 
(reftels A and B). 
 
3.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  On December 30, the Ambassador hosted a working 
lunch for ambassadors from established democracies to exchange views 
on Kazakhstan's progress on its Madrid commitments and its political 
trajectory as a whole.  All agreed that the three amended laws, 
currently under consideration in the lower house of parliament (the 
Mazhilis), are short of ideal, but are nevertheless a step forward. 
Further progress will only be achieved with continued engagement, 
plenty of patience, and a steady view of the long-term goal. 
Democracy must be homegrown, and Kazakhstan's democratic 
institutions are beginning to take root.  The country's progress may 
be slow, but it is nevertheless far ahead of its neighbors, and 
moving in the right direction.  Harsh public criticism is unlikely 
to bring positive results.  We should continue to pursue a patient 
and balanced policy of engagement.  END SUMMARY. 
 
4.  (SBU) Guests at the Ambassador's working lunch were the UK's 
Ambassador Paul Brummell (who previously served as ambassador to 
Turkmenistan), South Korea's Ambassador Il-Soo Kim, Belgium's 
Ambassador Christian Meerschman, Switzerland's newly-appointed 
Ambassador Stephan Nellen, Canada's Ambassador Margaret Skok, 
Israel's Ambassador Israel Mei-Ami, Ambassador of The Netherlands 
Klaas van der Tempel, and Turkey's Charg Alattin Temur. 
 
MADRID LAWS "SHORT OF IDEAL," BUT SIGN OF PROGRESS 
 
5.  (SBU) The Ambassador asked for the participants' assessment of 
the pending laws on political parties, elections, the media - the 
so-called Madrid-commitment laws - as well as the newly amended 
religion law.  He also  encouraged them to express candidly their 
own and their governments' general views of Kazakhstan's democratic 
development.  UK's Brummell noted that his embassy sponsored the 
assessment of the legislation by several leading NGOs, including 
Freedom House.  Overall, he said, the laws are "short of ideal."  In 
his view, however, the Kazakhstanis are taking the Madrid 
commitments seriously -- "They produced the drafts!" -- and should 
be urged to consider the legislation carefully and not to pass the 
laws "just for the sake of it."  Brummell pointed to the pending 
religion law as a good example: thanks in part to concerted 
international pressure, President Nazarbayev opted not to sign it 
into law, choosing instead to send it to the Constitutional Council 
for consideration.  (NOTE:  Senate Chairman Tokayev told the 
Ambassador privately on December 23 that the President intended to 
send the law to the Council, but no official announcement has been 
made.  END NOTE.) 
 
6.  (SBU) Canada's Skok noted that sharp public criticism of 
Kazakhstan's progress on the Madrid commitments, like Freedom 
House's recent report, "are not helpful" for the broader discussions 
on political development.  The report did not provide a thorough 
analysis of the legislation, in her view, and failed to provide a 
constructive way forward. 
 
NEED FOR CONTINUED ENGAGEMENT... 
 
7.  (SBU) Israel's Mei-Ami averred that "no drastic change" will 
take place while President Nazarbayev is still in power. 
Kazakhstan's political order revolves around the President, he 
stressed, and the ruling elite fear any sudden jolts that "would 
make the whole system collapse."  Dutch Ambassador van der Tempel 
agreed, but added that many mid-level officials "are smart and 
understand the issues" and should be "prodded and encouraged" 
towards "gentle" political liberalization.  "Kazakhstan needs to 
realize that it does not need to follow Russia" in its political 
development, he said.  Belgium's Meerschman stressed that such 
encouragement requires serious commitment from both sides.  He 
lamented the fact that Brussels drafted a road map for engagement 
 
ASTANA 00002577  002 OF 003 
 
 
with Central Asia, but "has done nothing" since. 
 
...PATIENCE... 
 
8.  (SBU) South Korea's Kim offered a "special perspective from a 
recent democracy."  Each country has its own idea, "and ideal," of 
democracy.  "Democracy can't be transplanted; it must be homegrown," 
he said.
  He related that as a diplomat posted in Washington, he 
frequently had to defend his own country's "slow" political 
progress.  Demanding a full-blown democracy in Kazakhstan is 
"premature."  The country is doing "quite well" in comparison to its 
neighbors, especially considering its short history since 
independence and the still-powerful influence of Russia.  Kim 
pointed out that Kazakhstan supported the United Nations resolution 
on North Korea's human rights record, something he sees as evidence 
of the country's changing world view.  He noted that the leadership 
is still shying away from supporting a similar resolution against 
Uzbekistan, to which the Ambassador pointed out that "North Korea 
does not share Kazakhstan's border." 
 
9.  (SBU) Turkey's Temur agreed with Ambassador Kim that Kazakhstan 
is moving in the right direction.  He noted that Turkey was one of 
the first to support Kazakhstan's bid for the OSCE chairmanship, but 
it also supported the EU in its criticism of the pending religion 
law.  "Progress is evident," he said, but "change has to be 
incremental." 
 
...AND A LONG-TERM VIEW 
 
10.  (SBU) Switzerland's Nellen raised the question of 
"conditionality versus finality," what he explained to be the 
difference between the policy of imposing strict bench-marks versus 
a policy of concentrating on the broader end goals.  Kazakhstan's 
short-term outlook is "unlikely to satisfy," he said, but taking a 
broader look at the country's overall political progression "offers 
a very positive view."  "There are certain things that the ruling 
elite cannot yet accept, but at least it has allowed their 
introduction," he stressed.  "The government could see your grants 
to Freedom House as support for the 'color revolution,'" he quipped 
to the UK ambassador, "and yet it tolerates it." 
 
11.  (SBU) The Ambassador noted that while the United States has 
also funded Freedom House, he has occasionally disagreed with its 
assessments.  He pointed out that Freedom House recently ranked 
Kazakhstan as "not free" and lumped it with Uzbekistan, 
Turkmenistan, and Belarus, where openness to independent press and 
public discussion falls far below that in Kazakhstan.  Such "public 
diplomacy" from government-supported NGOs can sometimes work against 
the "private diplomacy" we engage in with Central Asian governments, 
he said.  UK's Brummell countered that organizations like Freedom 
House play an important role by "tenaciously highlighting the 
issues," but agreed that it was important "not to preach and to 
exercise humility." 
 
THE WEST'S MIXED SIGNALS? 
 
12.  (SBU) Switzerland's Nellen ventured that "sometimes the West 
sends mixed signals" to Kazakhstan.  "We promise them the OSCE 
chairmanship, but then criticize the Madrid legislation; we promote 
our economic interests, but then hammer them on human rights," he 
said.  The Ambassador countered that, on the whole, all the 
represented countries pursued a policy that balanced energy, 
security, and political interests.  All is in the eye of the 
beholder, he stressed:  NGOs can always find evidence that business 
trumps human rights, and companies can always accuse us of putting 
ideals over economic interests.  In the end, we should continue with 
the balanced approach, he stressed. 
 
13.  (SBU) The Dutch ambassador suggested that "human rights policy" 
will gain greater traction if Kazakhstanis see it as in their own 
best interest.  Human rights is just part of the broader context of 
rule of law, he explained, something Kazakhstan needs in order to 
attract investment and foster economic growth.  South Korea's Kim 
said a similar approach could be taken with the religion law: 
Kazakhstan should see that passing the restrictive legislation would 
not bode well for its international image as a tolerant multi-ethnic 
state.  Canada's Skok agreed, but again stressed the need to be 
patient.  She reminded the participants that many democratic ideals 
 
ASTANA 00002577  003 OF 003 
 
 
they hold dear, for example gender equality, only very recently took 
root in Western democracies and had initially to be legislated and 
then followed by a long process of public "re-education." 
 
14.  (SBU) COMMENT:  Somewhat to our surprise, the lunch produced a 
consensus:  while not ideal, the current Madrid-commitment 
legislation is, nevertheless, a step forward on Kazakhstan's long 
path toward democracy.  Further, there was agreement that Kazakhstan 
out-paces its neighbors in day-to-day democratic freedoms.  Finally, 
all agreed that patient engagement, rather than harsh criticism, 
will better lead to our long-term democratic goals for Kazakhstan. 
END COMMENT.

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