09ASTANA713, KAZAKHSTAN — MORE EURASIA THAN CENTRAL ASIA —

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA713 2009-04-27 04:08 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO9364
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHNP RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHTA #0713/01 1170408
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 270408Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5254
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY 1528
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0906
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 0593
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1609
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY 1091
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY 1005
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2620
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2290
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 000713 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR P, SCA/CEN, S/SRAP, S/P, EEB, DRL 
NSC FOR MCFAUL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PHUM ECON RS AF KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN -- MORE EURASIA THAN CENTRAL ASIA -- 
SEEKS AN ENHANCED RELATIONSHIP 
 
REF: ASTANA 0674 (SCENESETTER FOR FM TAZHIN'S MAY 4-5 
     VISIT TO WASHINGTON) 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland:  1.4 (B), (D) 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  From many conversations with top-level 
officials and other signals, it is clear Kazakhstan is 
seeking an enhanced relationship with the United States, in 
part to better balance its relations with especially Russia 
but also with China.  Kazakhstan is different from the other 
four countries of Central Asia; it is richer, less 
provincial, and more progressive.  Kazakhstan is a force for 
stability in the region -- it does not employ territorial, 
ethnic, economic, or energy threats or claims against its 
neighbors.  Kazakhstan's early decisions to make serious 
macroeconomic reforms away from a command economy and its 
commitment to prepare a new generation of leaders through 
international education are now paying off.  Civil society is 
alive and well in Kazakhstan, although top-down 
authoritarianism still sets limits.  President Nazarbayev has 
both old-guard and progressive senior advisers and usually 
balances their views with a nod, even if sometimes slight, 
toward the progressive side, although he is cautious as he 
balances his equities.  Constraints toward greater progress 
include the Committee for National Security (ex-KGB) and 
elements of the Ministry of Defense, which lean toward the 
siloviki faction in Moscow.  With smart, reality-based 
diplomacy that puts our long-term national interests first, 
we can build a mutually beneficial, strategic partnership 
with Kazakhstan.  It's our choice, because at the beginning 
of the Obama administration, the door is open.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2.  (C) The Obama Administration is focusing major 
foreign-policy attention and resources on 
Afghanistan/Pakistan and on the U.S.-Russia bilateral 
relationship.  Kazakhstan -- oil-rich, stable, and relatively 
progressive -- is our most reliable partner between Russia 
and Afghanistan and is seeking to enhance its relationship 
with us, including with more frequent, high-level contacts 
(cabinet-level and above).  We have had a good start with 
President-elect Obama's telephone conversation with President 
Nursultan Nazarbayev in November, which was greatly 
appreciated and widely reported in Kazakhstan; Vice President 
Biden's phone call to Nazarbayev on April 23; and now Foreign 
Minister Marat Tazhin's May 4-5 visit to Washington.  It will 
be important to maintain regular senior-level contacts both 
ways. 
 
WHAT SETS KAZAKHSTAN APART 
 
3.  (C) Since the fall of the Soviet Union nearly two decades 
ago, we have talked about a region we call Central Asia: 
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and 
Uzbekistan.  It would be more accurate now to refer to 
Kazakhstan and Central Asia.  Except for a few of its 
southern provinces bordering Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan really is 
not like its more southern neighbors.  It is richer, less 
provincial, and more progressive. 
 
4.  (C) Part of this marked difference is a function of 
history.  While all five countries in the region were 
Sovietized, only Kazakhstan was heavily Russified, with the 
process beginning nearly 300 years ago.  About 30% of 
Kazakhstan's current population is still ethnic Russian, 
compared to single-figure percentages in the other four 
countries.  The northern third of Kazakhstan's vast territory 
is still heavily ethnic-Russian, which is one key reason why 
President Nazarbayev planted his new capital, Astana, firmly 
on the steppes of southern Siberia in 1998 -- to declare to 
any possible irridentists, "All of Kazakhstan is ours." 
 
ASTANA 00000713  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
5.  (C) Another part of Kazakhstan's marked difference is a 
function of national policy.  Two early decisions were 
seminal.  Immediately after independence, Kazakhstan made the 
fundamental decision to become a market economy and undertook 
serious economic and financial reforms, at the same time it 
opened its door to major investment by Western international 
oil companies.  Although Kazakhstan is no stranger to &#
x000A;post-Soviet corruption that allows senior officials and their 
favorites to gain vast wealth, Kazakhstan was wise enough to 
spread the wealth (and had enough available) so that a real 
economic middle class has begun to develop.  Today, 
Kazakhstan's economy is larger than the combined economies of 
the other four states in the region. 
 
6.  (C) A second early decision set Kazakhstan apart from the 
other four.  President Nazarbayev established the Bolashak 
Program to give a new generation of Kazakhstanis full 
university education, mostly in the West.  The nearly 5,000 
alumni of this on-going program are now salted throughout the 
upper mid-levels of the public and private sectors.  Their 
openness to new ideas, sophistication, and self-confidence 
are clearly in evidence in our daily interactions.  While the 
other four countries have serious "capacity problems," 
Kazakhstan is confidently moving ahead, with a new generation 
increasingly prepared to move into power. 
 
BASE OUR FOREIGN POLICY ON OBJECTIVE REALITY 
 
7.  (C) Kazakhstan is a force for stability in the region. 
Relatively prosperous and at peace internally, it does not 
employ territorial, ethnic, economic, or energy threats or 
claims against its neighbors.  Its "multi-vector" foreign 
policy adroitly balances its major partners -- Russia, China, 
the United States, and the European Union -- as well as 
important regional players like India and Iran.  Nazarbayev 
states clearly that Russia is Kazakhstan's number-one 
strategic partner for any number of reasons -- geography, 
history, economics, infrastructure, language, and culture. 
But he makes likewise clear, usually in private, that 
Kazakhstan greatly values its independence and has no 
intention of being anyone's "privileged sphere of influence." 
 Despite the close relations between Moscow and Astana, 
Russia's post-colonial psychology often causes it to 
over-play its hand dealing with Kazakhstan.  The brief 
Russia-Georgia war in 2008 seems to have been, to a degree, a 
wake-up call for Nazarbayev, and we believe he is 
recalibrating his foreign policy somewhat to the advantage of 
the United States.  But it's fine-turning; he doesn't make 
wild swings like Uzbekistan's Karimov between Moscow and 
Washington. 
 
8.  (C) For a time earlier this decade, our bilateral 
relations were constrained to a degree by the primacy of our 
focus on democracy and human rights.  The annual Freedom 
House report that rates Kazakhstan as "not free" and lumps it 
together with Uzbekistan and Belarus -- an absurdity that, to 
use Soviet-speak, "does not correspond to objective reality" 
-- seemed to some to play an inordinate role in determining 
to what degree we would engage with the Government of 
Kazakhstan. 
 
9.  (C) We acknowledge that Kazakhstan is authoritarian, but 
its authoritarianism is generally benign, in some ways even 
relatively progressive.  Although there might not be as many 
independent NGOs as some might like to see, civil society 
exists and is active.  Citizens band together to challenge 
the government on specific issues without fear of being 
rounded up and tossed into prison.  Across the political 
spectrum they provide testimony to Parliamentary committees. 
 
ASTANA 00000713  003 OF 003 
 
 
Government-approved and -financed "public associations" exist 
in which a broad range of opinion is expressed.  Does the 
government always listen and implement the most liberal 
views?  No.  But public discussion without fear of 
retribution is the beginning of democratic institutions. 
Public discussion also occurs in the print media, which 
freely criticize the government (and occasionally even the 
President) and regularly uncover the malfeasance of 
government officials and other scandals. 
 
EYES WIDE OPEN 
 
10.  (C) While we strongly advocate enhanced relations with 
Kazakhstan, including increased senior-level visits both 
ways, two constraints exist we should not ignore.  This is a 
post-Soviet state that has both progressive factions pushing 
for greater liberalization and old-guard factions seeking to 
retain tight control.  The old guard are strong in the 
security bodies, especially in the Committee for National 
Security (KNB, the Soviet KGB successor) and, to a degree, in 
the Ministry of Defense.  The KNB and the Minister of Defense 
himself, but not all his deputies, are generally believed to 
be closely allied to the Russian siloviki faction.  The KNB 
seems addicted to playing games to uncover (or to 
manufacture) "Western threats."  To a degree, they have 
Nazarbayev's ear, but he doesn't automatically succumb to 
their worst instincts. 
 
11.  (C) The second constraint, also KNB-related, is 
Nazarbayev's implacably estranged son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev 
who is exiled in Europe.  To please Nazarbayev, who feels 
Aliyev has compromised his honor, the KNB has demanded we 
cooperate "to capture Aliyev and render him to Kazakhstan to 
face justice."  We cannot have a dog in that fight.  This 
disappoints Nazarbayev, but it does not prevent him from 
productive cooperation when he judges that our national 
interests coincide. 
 
12.  (C) COMMENT:  With smart, reality-based diplomacy that 
puts our long-term national interests first, we can build a 
mutually beneficial, strategic partnership with Kazakhstan. 
It's our choice, because at the beginning of the Obama 
administration the door is open.  END COMMENT. 
HOAGLAND

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