09ASTANA376, KAZAKHSTAN: THE CENTRAL ASIAN PIVOT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA376 2009-03-03 06:50 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO7616
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHNP RUEHPW
RUEHROV
DE RUEHTA #0376/01 0620650
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 030650Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4786
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY 1286
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0669
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 0361
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1372
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY 0847
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY 0763
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2185
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2513

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ASTANA 000376 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR P, S/P, SCA/CEN, EUR/RUS, S/SRAP 
FROM AMBASSADOR RICHARD HOAGLAND 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2029 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KDEM RS AF KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  THE CENTRAL ASIAN PIVOT 
 
REF: A. ASTANA 0372 
     B. MOSCOW 0456 
     C. ASTANA 0319 
     D. MOSCOW 0220 
     E. TASHKENT 0160 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland:  1.4 (B), (D) 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  We have enormous equities at play in 
Afghanistan, Russia, and China.  Kazakhstan in particular, 
and Central Asia more widely, has a pivotal role to play in 
securing our national interests.  With the advent of a new 
Administration, we need to take hold of the opportunities in 
a far more effective and high-level fashion than we have 
before.  Kazakhstan is a reliable partner that is looking for 
a wider leadership role.  We should harness this, especially 
in relation to Afghanistan. 
 
2.  (C) SUMMARY CONTINUED:  To understand Kazakhstan's 
potential role as a strategic diplomatic partner for this 
effort, we will need to look accurately at reality as it 
exists.  Though authoritarian, Kazakhstan is a 
proto-democracy whose on-the-ground reality is different from 
the simplistic caricatures of Central Asia.  While a limited 
number of elements of the government have bought Russian 
anti-U.S. propaganda, by and large Kazakhstan is 
well-balanced and wants especially to play a role in Central 
Asia's modern and stable development.  It is important to 
remember that Kazakhstan, as the OSCE's 2010 
Chairman-in-Office, will play a pivotal role between Putin's 
Moscow and the OSCE's Western values.  We need to engage 
Kazakhstan's top leadership now.  END SUMMARY. 
 
COOPERATION ON AFGHANISTAN 
 
3.  (C) President Nazarbayev and some of his closest advisers 
and ministers have made it clear to me that they care deeply 
about achieving stability in Afghanistan, precisely because 
it is in their own national interest to do so.  In 2008, 
Kazakhstan provided $3 million for reconstruction and 
humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, and intends to 
continue to do so at about the same level in 2009, budget 
permitting.  (COMMENT:  By our standards, $3 million is mere 
pocket change.  But for a country that has never had an 
institutionalized foreign assistance program, the amount is 
significant.  END COMMENT.)  The pro-American Deputy Minister 
of Defense Sembinov, with President Nazarbayev's blessing, 
just completed a successful trip to Kabul to consult with the 
U.S. Embassy, U.S. military leadership, and the International 
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) leadership.  President 
Nazarbayev is willing to send Kazakhstani staff officers to 
the ISAF headquarters in Kabul and, possibly later, 
non-combat military support to Afghanistan, as it did for 
five-plus years in Iraq.  Within seven weeks after first 
contact by U.S. TRANSCOM, Kazakhstan agreed to participate in 
the Northern Distribution Network for Afghanistan, without 
any great drama. 
 
4.  (C) Bottom line:  Kazakhstan is on board with us 
vis-a-vis Afghanistan, and would welcome further suggestions 
from us how to move forward.  We have a relatively wide open 
door for further engagement with Kazakhstan on Afghanistan. 
 
A NEO-SOVIET "SILK CURTAIN"? 
 
5.  (C) Astana has a special relationship with Moscow that we 
recognize and do not dispute.  However, it is important to 
understand that because Kazakhstan is relatively rich and 
sophisticated it is not overly beholden to Russia, despite 
this "special relationship." 
 
6.  (C) Russia, however, sees it differently.  Since the end 
of 2001, Russia has consistently asserted its "sphere of 
influence" in Central Asia.  From 2004, once Putin 
consolidated his "vertical of power" domestically, he turned 
 
ASTANA 00000376  002 OF 004 
 
 
his government's attention to the Near Abroad, especially to 
Central Asia.  The United States rolled its eyes at Russia's 
creation of a number of Moscow-dominated regional 
organizations like the Cooperative Security Treaty 
Organization (CSTO) and others as feckless, vodka-swilling 
talk-shops devised and led by the Kremlin.  These 
Moscow-controlled organizations can make decisions and issue 
policy statements only if there is a full consensus among all 
members.  As a result, no individual CSTO member can agree to 
the establishment of a foreign military presence on
 its 
territory without Moscow's consent.  While the former Red 
Army might not threaten the independent states of Central 
Asia, Kremlin ideologues and their lawyers have worked 
mightily to erect a neo-Soviet "Silk Curtain" around Central 
Asia, with the goal of making the five Central Asian states 
Cold War-style satellites of Russia. 
 
HOWEVER 
 
7.  (C) However, there is an important saving grace.  The 
Central Asian states, over the last two decades, have become 
quite fond of their own independence and sovereignty.  And 
each has clearly distinguished itself from the others.  It's 
important to admit they fight among themselves, and some of 
the presidents detest each other (viz., Uzbekistan's Karimov 
and Tajikistan's Rahmon) and refuse to consider regional 
cooperation.  Arguably, Nazarbayev has emerged as the elder 
statesman of the region and has good relations with all ) 
except, of course, Karimov.  We should work to build an 
increasingly productive and reliable partnership with 
Kazakhstan, based on mutual interests and mutual respect. 
 
8.  (C) Precisely because Astana wants strong relations with 
both Moscow and Washington (as well as with Beijing), 
U.S.-Russia "competition unsettles Kazakhstan's leadership, 
and thus they have a powerful interest in supporting 
cooperation between Moscow and Washington.  We need to be 
mindful of this fact.  Indeed, the Astana leadership, in many 
different ways in recent weeks, has told me it is willing to 
play a constructive role to help bring Moscow and Washington 
back to a reasonable level of cooperation and collaboration. 
In mid-January, President Nazarbayev told U.S. CDR CENTCOM 
General Petraeus that the United States needs to listen 
closely to Russia -- and Kazakhstan is willing to help.  On 
February 26, Presidental Adviser Yertysbayev told me 
Kazakhstan "should and can" play this role.  Foreign Minister 
Tazhin has repeatedly told me Kazakhstan is well-positioned 
to play this role and is ready to do so.  But it needs to 
hear from us. 
 
9.  (C) Bottom line:  Kazakhstan is willing to use 
Nazarbayev's close and easy relations with Moscow to try to 
increase stability in the region, including in Afghanistan. 
To what degree he could fundamentally influence Putin's and 
the siloviki's worst instincts would, of course, be open to 
question.  At the very least, we need to work hard to widen 
Kazakhstan's role as a contributor to stability in 
Afghanistan, strengthen Kazakhstan's own ability to withstand 
Russian pressure, and work with Astana to advance our issues 
throughout Central Asia. 
 
AN IMPORTANT CONSTRAINT 
 
10.  (S) Kazakhstan's "multi-vector" foreign policy is 
successful, and a number of key ministers and presidential 
advisers are outward looking internationalists who engage 
well with the United States.  However, the Committee for 
National Security (KNB), the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, 
is a problem.  The general consensus is that KNB Chairman 
Shabdarbayev leans strongly toward Russia and cooperates 
closely with Russia's intelligence services, sometimes to our 
detriment.  Further, the United States is not in the KNB's 
good graces because we have steadfastly, and correctly, 
refused to be drawn into the feud-to-the-death between 
President Nazarbayev and his exiled-in-Austria former 
 
ASTANA 00000376  003 OF 004 
 
 
son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev.  Despite the real problems this 
has caused in our bilateral relationship, I have seen 
evidence that President Nazarbayev, when he judges that it is 
in Kazakhstan's national interest, tends to side with the 
angels -- because he cares about his relationship with the 
United States, as well as building an international image as 
a statesman. 
 
ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE 
 
11.  (C) I recommend that Washington engage fully with Astana 
1) to support our own goals in Afghanistan, and 2) to signal 
clearly to the international community -- including Moscow, 
Beijing, Brussels, and other capitals -- that, even if we 
leave Manas in Kyrgyzstan, we are certainly not leaving 
Central Asia and certainly do not accept Russia's "privileged 
sphere of influence" that would make the Central Asian states 
satellites of the Kremlin. 
 
12.  (C) A strong signal of our intentions would be to invite 
President Nazarbayev to Washington.  Even more significant 
would be a visit, even if brief, by President Obama to 
Astana.  Quite frankly, that would be a political earthquake 
in the region.  Likewise, a visit soonest by Secretary 
Clinton -- ideally in conjunction with stops in Moscow and 
Kabul -- would be a powerful sign that the United States is 
reordering its intentions and priorities in Central Asia for 
the benefit of our policy in Afghanistan. 
 
BACKGROUND 
 
13.  (U) Since its independence, Kazakhstan has implemented 
three fundamental decisions that have made it worthy of 
closer attention. 
 
14.  (SBU) First, almost from the beginning, Kazakhstan has 
achieved serious economic and financial reforms that, before 
the current global economic crisis, placed it on a par with 
the countries of Central Europe, and led to about $11 billion 
in U.S. direct foreign investment, including at least $8 
billion in the oil and gas sector, especially by Chevron, 
ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips.  Other major U.S. 
corporations are also present in Kazakhstan, like General 
Electric and Proctor & Gamble.  By the middle of the next 
decade, Kazakhstan will become one of the world's top-10 oil 
exporters, and its natural gas potential is equally 
impressive and could help diminish the Russian Gazprom 
monopoly in Eurasia.  Kazakhstan has also witnessed the 
emergence of a real economic middle class -- not just in the 
political capital of Astana and the financial/cultural 
capital of Almaty, but also in regional capitals across this 
vast country, the geographical size of Western Europe. 
 
15.  (SBU) Second, from the beginning of its independence in 
1991 when it was a Soviet-heritage nuclear-weapons state, 
Kazakhstan renounced its nuclear status and has become a 
steadfastly reliable partner with the United States in the 
battle against the proliferation of weapons of mass 
destruction, both nuclear and biological. 
 
16.  (SBU) Third, since its independence, Kazakhstan has 
understood the need to develop its human capital.  The 
government implemented its "Bolashak (Future) Program" that 
has continued, even in the most parlous economic times, to 
send its young people abroad for full university educations, 
mostly in the West.  Today, more that 4,500 young 
Kazakhstanis have completed their higher-education degrees 
under this program, and many thousands more have done so with 
their own resources.  The results are visible every day in 
both the private and public sectors, where sophisticated, 
Eng
lish-speaking, bright young people are increasingly 
playing constructive roles.  The government itself promotes 
these globally-oriented young people into surprisingly 
powerful roles.  Some key ministers and advisers, especially 
in the economic sector, are in their mid-30s. 
 
ASTANA 00000376  004 OF 004 
 
 
 
17.  (C) Though still authoritarian, Kazakhstan impresses me 
because civil society is relatively free to organize and 
operate, and regularly engages the government, sometimes 
influencing government decisions and draft legislation -- 
even if civil society doesn't always win its maximalist 
positions.  The government has established and supports a 
number of civil-society organizations with a wide variety of 
opinion, from squawking government parrots to outspokenly 
shrill opposition voices, all within the same 
government-approved organization.  Remarkably, the Prime 
Minister has established his own Internet blog that welcomes, 
across the full spectrum of political opinion, citizen 
comment; and he has instructed all other ministers to do 
likewise.  Grass-roots democracy is alive, and I would judge 
even growing, in Kazakhstan.  For a more in-depth view of 
political Kazakhstan, see reftel A. 
HOAGLAND

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