Order Code 97-1058 F
Updated May 4, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Kazakhstan: Current Developments
and U.S. Interests
Analyst in Russian and Eurasian Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Kazakhstan is becoming an important power in Central Asia by virtue of its large
territory, ample natural resources, and strategic location. However, it faces political,
ethnic, economic, and environmental challenges to its stability and integrity. After the
terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Kazakhstan granted
overflight rights for U.S.-led coalition actions in Afghanistan, and in 2003 provided
some troops for post-conflict rebuilding in Iraq. This report may be updated. Related
products include CRS Issue Brief IB93108, Central Asia, updated regularly.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard
Armitage on April 27, 2004, stated that
“Kazakhstan can and should, in my view,
serve as a guiding light” in Central Asia, the
South Caucasus, and beyond, since it is “the
largest, most stable and prosperous Central
Asian state.” He praised President Nursultan
Nazarbayev for much of Kazakhstan’s
progress “on matters of security, on matters
of economy, and on matters of political development,” and for making Kazakhstan “a
leader in the global non-proliferation effort” and a “key player” in the war against
terrorism. The United States seeks the dismantling of Soviet-era facilities in Kazakhstan
used to make weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the re-training of scientists who
once worked on WMD. U.S. goals also include fostering democratization, open markets,
a favorable investment climate for U.S. firms, and Kazakhstan’s integration into the
global economy. The State Department has raised concerns that Kazakhstan’s
Sources for this report include the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), Central
Eurasia: Daily Report; Eurasia Insight; RFE/RL Central Asia Report; the State Department’s
Washington File; and Reuters, Associated Press (AP), and other newswires.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
democratization is flagging, and targets
some planned FY2005 aid to maintain
citizen participation in politics, support
grassroots civic organizations, and
develop more responsible local
government. A large part of proposed
Foreign Military Financing and other
equipment and training aid for FY2005
will be used to create a rapid reaction
brigade at the Atyrau military base, and
to support the Kazakh (formerly Central
Asian) Peacekeeping Battalion, to help
Kazakhstan “respond to major terrorist
threats to oil platforms or borders,” and
otherwise “protect Caspian energy
infrastructure and key energy transport
routes” (State Department,
Congressional Presentation for Foreign
Operations, FY2005). U.S.-Kazakh
relations could be troubled by the
upcoming U.S. trial of an American
charged with passing bribes from oil
companies to Kazakh officials.
Kazakhstan: Basic Facts
Area and Population: Land area is 1,049,200 sq.
mi.; about four times the size of Texas. The
population is 14.9 million (Economist Intelligence
Unit, 2003 est.).
Ethnicity: 53.4% are Kazakh and 30% are Russian
(1999 Kazakh census). Other ethnic groups include
Uzbeks, Tatars, Uighurs, and Germans.
Gross Domestic Product: $30.2 billion in 2003;
per capita GDP is about $2,000 (EIU, current
Political Leaders: President: Nursultan
Nazarbayev; Chair of the Majlis: Zharmakhan
Tuyakbay; Chair of the Senate: Nurtay Abykayev;
Prime Minister: Daniyal Akhmetov; Foreign
Minister: Kasymzhomart Tokayev; Defense
Minister: Gen. Mukhtar Altynbayev.
Biography: Nazarbayev, born in 1940, moved up
through the ranks of the Kazakh Communist Party
(KCP), eventually becoming its First Secretary in
1989. He also was appointed President by the
legislature in 1990. He resigned from the KCP in
1991 and won popular election as president in an
unopposed race in December 1991. Nazarbayev
arranged a call by a pseudo-legislative People’s
Assembly for a 1995 referendum to extend his rule.
He was re-elected in 1999 and in 2000 gained some
official powers for life.
Cumulative U.S. aid budgeted for
Kazakhstan in fiscal years 1992 through
2003 was estimated at $1.054 billion, with Kazakhstan ranking fifth in aid among the
twelve former Soviet republics. The United States also helped deliver Department of
Defense excess and privately donated commodities worth $202.36 million in FY1992FY2003. Estimated U.S. FREEDOM Support Act and other foreign aid for FY2004 was
$41.57 million, and the Administration requested $40.22 million for FY2005. The United
States also contributes to international organizations that aid Central Asia.
Among Congressional action, Omnibus Appropriations for FY2003 (P.L. 108-7)
forbade assistance to the government of Kazakhstan unless the Secretary of State
determined and reported that Kazakhstan had significantly improved its human rights
record during the preceding six-month period. He could, however, waive this prohibition
on national security grounds. He reported on July 17, 2003, that Kazakhstan had made
such progress, eliciting some criticism of these findings from Congress. This condition
was retained in Consolidated Appropriations for FY2004, including foreign operations
(P.L.108-199; signed into law on January 23, 2004).
Contributions to the Campaign Against Terrorism
According to the State Department, Kazakhstan’s strategic importance to the United
States did not diminish after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, although the U.S.
focus did shift somewhat toward the basing support that Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan could
provide for coalition action in Afghanistan. In June 2001, Nazarbayev had warned that
Taliban influences increasingly threatened regional security, and after 9/11 he pledged
that Kazakhstan was ready to assist an international coalition to combat the “evil” of
terrorism. He offered overflight rights and the use of airbases, but did not offer troops.
Kazakhstan also facilitated the transshipment of supplies to U.S. forces in Uzbekistan and
Kyrgyzstan. The United States and Kazakhstan signed a memorandum of understanding
on July 10, 2002, permitting U.S. military aircraft to use Kazakhstan’s airport in Almaty
for emergency military landings. A few days later, another accord was signed providing
increased U.S. military training and equipment for the Kazakh armed forces.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Tokayev on March 28, 2003, voiced general support for
disarming Iraq. Tokayev later explained that Kazakhstan had decided to support the
coalition because it feared that Saddam Hussein was building nuclear and other mass
destruction weapons. Reportedly responding to a U.S. appeal, Nazarbayev proposed and
the legislature in late May 2003 approved sending military engineers to Iraq. The 27
troops are engaged in de-mining and water purification duties. During a February 25,
2004, visit to Kazakhstan to discuss military cooperation and to thank it for supporting
coalition efforts in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stressed that “it is Caspian
security ... that is important for [the United States] and it is important to the world that
security be assured in that area.” In the face of escalating violence in Iraq in April 2004,
Nazarbayev asserted that “Kazakhstan has been a member of the anti-terrorist coalition
from the start, and we will stay in this coalition.” Tokayev appeared less certain, stating
that the Kazakh troops would not be removed “in the near future” from Iraq.
Foreign Policy and Defense
Nazarbayev has stated that the geographic location of Kazakhstan and its ethnic
makeup dictate its “multipolar orientation toward both West and East.” He has pursued
close ties with Turkey, trade links with Iran, and better relations with China, which many
Kazakhs have traditionally viewed as a security threat. There are over one million ethnic
Kazakhs in China, and 300,000 ethnic Uighurs of China residing in Kazakhstan, who
have complicated relations between the two states. While seeking to protect Kazakh
independence, Nazarbayev has pursued close relations with Russia and other
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members for economic and security reasons.
In 1998, Kazakhstan and Russia signed a Declaration of Eternal Friendship and Alliance
Cooperation in which they pledged to assist each other in the case of threats against each
other, including by providing military support. They signed accords settling Caspian
seabed resource claims in 1998 and 2002. In April 2004, Nazarbayev raised concerns that
the escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict threatened to intensify Islamic discontent and
extremism in Central Asia, and he offered to help mediate the conflict.
The Kazakh military has been beset by funding and training problems that have
forced it to rely on Russia, although Nazarbayev has also moved to expand defense
cooperation with other states. About 65,800 Kazakh troops serve in the ground forces,
air force, and a minuscule Caspian Sea force, and 15,000 in the border guards, according
to The Military Balance 2003-2004. A February 2000 military doctrine calls for
balancing security assistance from both Russia and the West, and lists international
terrorism, WMD proliferation to extremists, and regional conflict as major threats.
Nazarbayev signed a decree in May 2003 to reform the Kazakh armed forces and has
boosted military spending. In 1994, Kazakhstan joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace
(PFP). In early 1999, Kazakhstan reaffirmed a CIS Collective Security Treaty (CST)
pledging the parties to provide military assistance in case of aggression against any one
of them. CST members in May 2001 agreed to set up an anti-terrorism rapid reaction
center composed largely of Russian military forces stationed in Tajikistan. Kazakhstan
is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, composed of Russia, China,
and the Central Asian states (except Turkmenistan), which will combat regional terrorism
and facilitate trade ties. Kazakhstan has taken part in NATO’s PFP exercises since 1995.
Kazakhstan inherited major Soviet-era stockpiles of weapons and produces small arms.
Some arms sales to North Korea and other rogue states have drawn U.S. criticism.
After the Soviet breakup, Kazakhstan was on paper a major nuclear weapons power
(in reality Russia controlled these weapons). All bombers and their air-launched cruise
missiles were removed to Russia by late February 1994. On April 21, 1995, the last of
about 1,040 nuclear warheads had been removed from the SS-18 missiles and transferred
to Russia, and Kazakhstan announced that it was nuclear weapons-free. In December
1993, the United States and Kazakhstan signed an umbrella agreement for the “safe and
secure” dismantling of 104 SS-18s, the destruction of their silos, and related purposes.
A U.S.-Kazakh Nuclear Risk Reduction Center in Almaty has been set up to facilitate
verification and compliance with arms control and security agreements to enhance peace
and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Political and Economic Developments
Kazakhstan’s moves toward democracy have been halting. The Kazakh
Constitutional Court ruled in early 1995 that a new legislature had been elected unfairly,
and Nazarbayev dissolved it (critics argued that it had begun to challenge his powers).
He ruled by decree pending the writing of a new constitution and the holding of new
elections. The 1995 constitution increases the president’s powers and places less
emphasis on protecting human rights. As fleshed out by a presidential edict, the
legislature does not control the budget, cannot initiate constitutional changes, or exercise
oversight over the executive branch. The president’s nominees for premier and state bank
head are ratified by the legislature, but he appoints the rest of the cabinet. Most bills are
initiated by the president, and if the legislature fails within 30 days to pass one of his
“urgent” bills, he may issue it by decree. . In 2001, the Constitutional Council struck
down a bill initiated by deputies providing for staffs, reminding them that they do not
control their own budget. An extra-constitutional 327-member People’s Assembly
composed of cultural and ethnic leaders serves as a presidential propaganda forum.
As in other former Soviet republics, land privatization has proven controversial, and
in April 2003 aroused the Kazakh Majlis to make major changes to a government bill.
Then-Prime Minister Imangaliy Tasmagambetov reacted by calling for a vote of
confidence in the government, aimed at taking advantage of a legal provision that the
government’s version of the land bill would thereby be enacted unaltered if confidence
was sustained. About three-fourths of the Majlis voted no-confidence, but the Senate
voted heavily the other way, resulting in a total vote short of the two-thirds required to
either dissolve the government or the Majlis. Despite this victory for the government,
public discontent over the bill led Nazarbayev to request the government’s resignation in
June 2003 and to suggest alterations to the original bill, some in keeping with Majlis
proposals, that were speedily approved and signed into law.
In October 1998, the Kazakh legislature approved constitutional amendments that
enabled Nazarbayev to call an early presidential race for January 1999 and extended the
president’s term from five to seven years. The U.S. State Department in November 1998
criticized a decision of the Kazakh Central Electoral Commission (CEC) and Supreme
Court that the most influential opposition figure, Akezhen Kazhegeldin, was ineligible
to run. Three candidates were registered besides Nazarbayev, but only one was a true
opposition candidate. The CEC reported that Nazarbayev had won with 79.8% of about
seven million votes cast. The U.S. State Department declared that the race had set back
democratization and impaired U.S.-Kazakh relations. In June 2000, the legislature voted
some lifetime powers to Nazarbayev, even after he steps down, as head of the Defense
Council and the People’s Assembly, along with immunity from prosecution.
The most recent election to Kazakhstan’s lower legislative chamber, the Majlis, took
place in October 1999, with 595 candidates and nine parties competing for 77 seats (ten
more seats were reserved for a party list vote). OSCE monitors concluded that the race
was “a tentative step” in democratization, but decried interference by officials, biased
electoral commissions, unfair campaigning by pro-government parties, and harassment
of opposition candidates. Members of Kazakhstan’s 39-seat upper legislative chamber,
the Senate, represent the regions and are indirectly elected by local assemblies (seven
members, however, are appointed by Nazarbayev and serve at his will). By-elections to
the Majlis in late 2002 and Maslikhat (local legislative) elections in September-October
2003 were marked by irregularities, according to the State Department, raising concerns
about prospects for the Majlis election planned for October 2004. In April 2004, Deputy
Secretary Armitage stated that “with the example of Georgia’s ‘rose revolution’ on
everyone’s mind, Kazakhstan could be a positive role model for peaceful change” in the
region if it held a free and fair Majlis race.
In 2002, the Justice Ministry announced stringent new registration requirements for
political parties, which resulted in the elimination of eleven parties and the successful reregistration of seven pro-government parties and the “moderate opposition” Ak Zhol
party. The opposition party Democratic Choice (DCP) repeatedly has been denied
registration, which perhaps spurred some members in 2002 to split off and form Ak Zhol.
In addition to these eight parties, the newly formed Asar Party (led by Nazarbayev’s
daughter) was successfully registered at the end of 2003. In February 2004, the
unregistered People’s Party and DCP formed a coalition.
The U.S. State Department concluded in its Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices for 2003 that the Kazakh government’s human rights record remained poor (the
June 2003 certification to Congress — see above — cited significant improvement in
human rights). Security forces tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees on some
occasions, although some officials in 2003 were punished under new provisions
criminalizing torture. The government took some moves to improve harsh prison
conditions and the treatment of prisoners. It continued to use arbitrary arrest and
detention and selectively prosecute political opponents, and to use criminal and civil
charges, physical attacks, and vandalism to eliminate most media that criticized
Nazarbayev. Unapproved public meetings, marches, demonstrations, picketing, and
strikes were suppressed as national security threats. The central government mostly
respected religious freedom. The government reported in 2003 that there were about
1,500 privately owned media, but some were owned by the president’s family and most
relied on state subsidies or state-controlled printing and distribution. Nationwide
television and radio broadcasting were largely state-owned or influenced. In April 2004,
domestic and international criticism of restrictive media legislation apparently led
Nazarbayev (who had orchestrated the legislation) to decide against signing it into law.
Kazakhstan is the most economically developed of the former Soviet Central Asian
republics. According to the World Bank, Kazakhstan’s economic prospects are promising
because of its vast energy and mineral resources, low foreign debt, and well-trained work
force. In March 2004, Nazarbayev stressed that ties with the United States include $7.5
billion in private investment in Kazakhstan’s energy and other sectors, about one-third of
all international investment. Foreign investors are members of a presidential council that
meets semiannually. Fiscal reforms and increased energy prices and exports contributed
to GDP growth of 9.1% in 2003, and consumer price inflation averaged 6.8% (EIU).
About one-fourth of the population lives below the poverty level, according to some
estimates. Sparse social services have exacerbated poverty and health problems, with the
government seeking to engage Western energy firms to provide some services.
Energy. Second to Russia, Kazakhstan has the largest oil and gas reserves of the
Caspian Sea regional states, holding promise of large export revenues. The U.S. Energy
Department in mid-2003 estimated that there were 9-17.6 billion barrels of proven and
possible oil reserves and 65 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of proven gas reserves in Kazakhstan.
The Tengiz oilfield began to be exploited by Chevron-Texaco and Kazakhstan in a
consortium during 1993 (U.S. Exxon-Mobil and Russia’s LUKoil later joined). The
Karachaganak onshore field is being developed by British Gas and Italy’s Agip oil firm,
who estimate reserves of more than 2.4 billion barrels of oil and 16 tcf of gas. In 2002,
another consortium led by Agip reported findings from its test wells and research that
Kazakhstan’s Kashagan offshore Caspian oil field had between 7-9 billion barrels of oil
in proven reserves, comparable to those of Tengiz. Kazakhstan’s oil exports currently are
about one million barrels per day (bpd). Armitage stated in April 2004 that “Kazakhstan
could well be producing over three million bpd by the end of this decade, making [it] one
of the world’s top five oil-exporting nations.” Infrastructure development problems have
limited gas production and even necessitated gas imports. Investment in developing
Kashagan and other fields has been set back in recent months by harsher government
terms, taxes, and fines.
Russia seeks maximum influence over Kazakhstan’s energy resources by providing
the primary pipeline export routes and by becoming involved in production. Russian
shareholders have a controlling interest, 44 percent, in the Caspian pipeline consortium
(CPC), which completed construction in late 2001 of a 990-mile oil pipeline from
Kazakhstan to Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk that initially carries 560,000 bpd.
President Bush stated that the CPC project “advances my Administration’s National
Energy Policy by developing a network of multiple Caspian pipelines ... [that] help
diversify U.S. energy supply and enhance our energy security.” Kazakhstan has indicated
that it will use the oil pipeline being built from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, Turkey, as
a means to reduce its dependence on energy export routes through Russia. Kazakhstan
currently transports about 100,000 bpd by rail and barge to Baku. China and Kazakhstan
are building an oil pipeline from Atyrau on the Caspian seacoast to Alashankou on the
Kazakh-China border, where it will be connected to a another prospective pipeline.