Nazarbayev outlines Kazakh foreign policy priorities

    On March 2, Kazakh President Nursulan Nazarbayev addressed members of the diplomatic corps at an annual gathering used to unveil Kazakhstan’s foreign policy priorities for each coming year. In a long speech delivered before the country’s political establishment and foreign ambassadors, Nazarbayev shared his strategic vision about the future of the Central Asian region and the role of Kazakhstan in international affairs.
    One of the most surprising highlights in the Kazakh president’s statement was his harsh criticism of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which Kazakhstan chaired in 2010, even managing to hold a summit after an 11-year impasse. In Nazarbayev’s view, the OSCE has not become a platform for devising solutions to solve the economic crisis that heavily impacted all of its member states’ economies.
    “The flaws of the present-day currency system are evident. They threaten to bring about another global crisis, more powerful than two years ago,” Nazarbayev warned. “Still, the issues of economic security are not among OSCE priorities. The Organization’s military dimension and the Corfu process have been stalled. Kazakhstan’s and other countries’ proposals for the enlargement of ‘security baskets’ within the Organization are not being implemented.”
    Kazakhstan’s leader was also critical of the OSCE’s approach to electoral monitoring, warning that Kazakhstan might refuse to further participate in its observer missions abroad. He especially criticized the current practice according to which international observers issue approbatory statements about the organization of the electoral process, but then suddenly started talking about incompatibility with some standards.
    “The ship named the OSCE is still listing towards one of its sides, the humanitarian dimension. We are once again seeing unproductive attempts to use such an instrument as observer missions to exercise pressure upon certain countries […]. This is not only my personal opinion, this is widely believed in the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States],” Nazarbayev concluded.
    Instead, he was very optimistic about the prospects of the Eurasian Economic Union, adding that Eurasian integration remains an important factor of regional stability contributing to increased competitiveness and technological advances. In Nazarbayev’s opinion, the formation of a new economic bloc in the post-Soviet space will produce benefits for all parties involved, boosting their collective bargaining power and building upon their common desire to ensure long-term development.
    After admitting that current global trends inevitably lead to drastic changes in all societies, Kazakhstan’s president openly spoke against “methods instigating modernization, especially if it is aimed at carrying out unprepared political changes.”
    In this context, Nazarbayev quoted the famous French diplomat Charles Talleyrand who once said: “One can lean against a bayonet, but cannot sit on it.” According to experts, this statement clearly indicates the Kazakh leadership’s wariness of any revolutionary changes inspired by street protests, similar to those in Russia after the December 2011 parliamentary elections.
    The common belief shared by several ex-Soviet leaders is that Western governments and donor organizations are attempting to implement power transitions, thus making the fear of “color revolutions” a solid pretext for restricting social freedoms.
    As regards Kazakhstan’s foreign policy strategy, Nazarbayev announced that the fundamental principle of his country’s international agenda is “global participation.” Kazakhstan intends to be more actively engaged in various global initiatives, such as the Green Bridge program proposed by the Kazakh leader himself at the UN General Assembly last September. This ambitious project aims to provide for the transfer of ‘green’ technologies from richer to poorer countries, the rational usage of water resources, and the creation of manmade forests to prevent desertification.
    Kazakhstan is also going to use its historic example at the upcoming Seoul nuclear summit to speak in favor of the universal adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the U.S. signed but refused to ratify in 1999.
    A special word was devoted to the relations between Kazakhstan and its Central Asian neighbors. Nazarbayev called on his colleagues to put aside their differences in order to work out an efficient framework for the common use of water resources.
    This issue has poisoned for many years normal working relationships between several Central Asian republics, namely Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan as well as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
    Another issue of concern to President Nazarbayev is food security. While he promised that Kazakhstan would become fully self-sufficient in terms of food supply, he suggested creating a Regional Food Pool to ensure coordinated distribution of locally produced and imported foods in case of shortages. Turning to the economic side of the problem, the Kazakh leader also talked about the establishment of a regional free trade area and massive joint investments into transport infrastructure.
    Finally, Nazarbayev proposed to formalize the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), an intergovernmental forum which held its first ministerial meeting in 1999 with the participation of 15 states, including Russia, Iran, Turkey, and South Korea, the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst wrote.