Kazakhstan extends cooperation with the USA and NATO
Victoria Panfilova, an observer of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
This year joint military exercises with the US will take place in Kazakhstan – Steppe Eagle 2015. It is expected that right after the exercises Kazakhstan will be visited by a representative delegation of NATO, the ambassador of Estonia to Kazakhstan Jan Reinhold made known. In 2015 the Estonian embassy became the NATO contact office in Kazakhstan. Experts believe that the sudden intensification of relations between Astana and the West in the military sphere complements the multivectoral policy of President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. At the same time, this might be a hint that the country is trying to protect itself from external influences which are able to ruin its internal stability.
“In the first half of 2015 we plan to welcome representatives of NATO to Astana; we also have an idea of organizing a joint social arrangement in the second half of the year,” Reinhold said. The head of the diplomatic mission reminded that Kazakhstan was one of the active partners of NATO in the region of Central Asia, which calls for cooperation, stability and peace.According to him, future joint arrangements between NATO and Kazakhstan will be held within the program “Partnership for Peace.”This concerns development of and experience exchange between peacemaking forces. According to the diplomat, “the world has radically changed since the recent events in Ukraine.”
Maybe the joint military exercises of the USA and Kazakhstan are directed at prevention of probable destabilization in the republic. According to the Defense Minister of Kazakhstan, the military exercise will have two stages – in April and in July 2015, activities for restoring public order, cordoning a residential area and a mop-up operation will be carried out.
“Military and technical cooperation in all possible directions has been an initial policy of Kazakhstan since its independence. Only the circumstances of holding the exercises have changed. The situation doesn’t bring anything new. Kazakhstan has always provided a multivectoral foreign policy, which has been characterized by cooperation with all key foreign partners,” Andrei Kazantsev, the director of the MGIMO Analytical Center, told Vestnik Kavkaza.
“The key partners involve Russia, as a military-political alliance is built with it within the CSTO. It doesn’t prevent Astana from cooperation with NATO in the military-political sphere. For instance, Kazakhstan is a member of the European Atlantic Partnership and participates in the program of “Partnership for Peace.” At the same time, Astana develops military-political cooperation with many Asian countries. This means contacts with China within the SCO and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia. It should be noted that Islamic states are not forgotten either, even though there is no military cooperation with them.”
“The multivectoral policy is effective when partners from various political camps are not confronting each other directly. While Russia had no open conflict with the West, Kazakhstan managed to provide a multivectoral policy. Today there are difficulties, as Russia is involved in a conflict with the whole of the West due to Ukraine. Now the participants in the conflict demand certainty from Kazakhstan. And tension over Kazakhstan is rising; thus, it will be more difficult for President Nazarbayev to provide a multivectoral policy,” Kazakntsev said, not excluding the fact that Beijing could also put pressure on Astana in its interests. At the same time, considering the fact that Russia in confronting the West will try to maintain partners, Astana can use the situation in its own interests.
“We shouldn’t forget that the threat of Islamic State is growing, tension in Afghanistan is high, especially on the northern borders. So, close cooperation with all powerful players is necessary,” Kazantsev thinks.
Shokhrat Kadyrov, PhD, a senior scientist of the Institute of Oriental Studies, has a different view. “Both the West and Nazarbayev send a clear message to Vladimir Putin by the joint military exercise – what will happen in case of a Crimean scenario in Northern Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is a member of the CSTO. However, it should be noted that the organization is not primarily aimed at protection of Kazakhstan from external invasion. This is confirmed by the fact that those countries which are highly threatened by external invasion (Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) are not members of the CSTO. Withdrawal from the CSTO would be a political and diplomatic mistake for Kazakhstan, while demonstration of alternative options is perfect. Moreover, in case of destabilization of the situation in Turkmenistan, which could be connected with invasion of Islamists (IS or Taliban), UN peace-keepers could be sent there (at the request of neutral Turkmenistan), which would involve a significant part of Kazakhstan, US and Russian troops. Considering the political confrontation between Russia and the USA, it is important for the Americans to build tight cooperation with Kazakhstan in the sphere,” Shokhrat Kadyrov said.