• KGS/USD = 0.01118 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00222 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09131 0%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01118 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00222 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09131 0%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%

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Time for the U.S. to Cement a “Nuclear-Weapon-Free” Central Asia

The Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ) Treaty, which came into force in 2009, represented a significant advance in international efforts to limit nuclear proliferation. Initiated by the five Central Asian countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—it aims to enhance regional and global security by guaranteeing that the region remains free of nuclear weapons. In May 2014, all five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council signed a Protocol to the CANWFZ Treaty (the permanent five include China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, who also happen to be five signatories of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, that have nuclear weapons). This Protocol legally binds them not to use or to threaten to use nuclear weapons against any of the CANWFZ signatories – i.e., the above-listed five Central Asian countries. As the 10th anniversary of the signing of the 2104 Protocol approaches, it is unfortunate that the United States is the only signatory that has not yet ratified it. The CANWFZ Treaty continues to enhance regional security in Central Asia amidst current international tensions and remains a pillar of regional security that deters threats and strengthens global norms. As a gesture of support for the region's nuclear-weapon-free status, U.S. Senate’s ratification of the Protocol would ultimately enhance U.S.’ credibility on the international stage, solidify its strategic commitment to Central Asia at a critical time, and demonstrate that it will continue to pursue a more secure and stable world. It would also be a significant nod towards Kazakhstan's leadership in nuclear disarmament and the country's pro-active stance against nuclear proliferation. The significance of Kazakhstan’s enhanced role Although it took three more years to enter into force, the CANWFZ Treaty was signed in 2006 in the Kazakhstani city of Semei (formerly Semipalatinsk), which used to host Soviet nuclear tests and is located less than 1,400 kilometres away from the Chinese test site at Lop Nor. The USSR conducted over 450 nuclear tests, both underground and atmospheric, at Semipalatinsk between 1949 and 1989. These tests were carried out with scant regard for the health and safety of the local population or the environmental ramifications. The area continues to bear the scars of this era, with elevated levels of cancer, birth defects and other radiation-induced illnesses persisting amongst the population. In response to the devastating impact of nuclear testing, a profound anti-nuclear sentiment took root in Kazakhstan. This culminated in the formation of the civil-society 'Nevada–Semipalatinsk' movement, inspired by similar groups seeking to close U.S. nuclear sites in the state of Nevada. This movement was a pioneering effort in the late 1980s that united Kazakhstan's citizens in opposition to nuclear tests. The Nevada–Semipalatinsk movement was amongst the first (if not the very first) major anti-nuclear movements in the USSR, and its momentum helped drive Kazakhstan towards independence. After its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan inherited the world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal and has cooperated with the West to dismantle it while also preventing the Soviet era nuclear material left on its soil...

1 week ago

Kazakhstan’s Proposed Nuclear Power Plant: a Geopolitical Tightrope amid Environmental Concerns

Renowned for its abundant uranium reserves and expansive mining ventures, Kazakhstan is making substantial progress in the realm of nuclear power. Currently, approximately 60 nuclear reactors are under construction worldwide in 17 countries, and with more in the pipeline, demand for uranium has skyrocketed. Kazakhstan is by far the world's largest producer of nuclear fuel, mining 21,227 tons in 2022, which equates to 43% of global production. Kazatomprom, the national atomic company, is the world's largest uranium producer, with its subsidiaries, affiliates, and joint ventures developing 26 deposits. Russia, Japan, China, Canada, and France are all heavily invested, whilst international agreements exist with a plethora of other nations. Kazakhstan’s inaugural venture into the nuclear field was marked by the BN-350 fast-neutron reactor in Aktau, which ran from 1973 to 1999 before being decommissioned. Now, President Tokayev has announced a referendum will be held to decide whether to build the nation’s first fully-fledged nuclear power plant. "On the one hand, Kazakhstan, as the world's biggest uranium producer, should have its own nuclear power capacity," Tokayev stated. "On the other hand, many citizens and some experts have concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants.” The Proving Ground With Kazakhstan having endured the most contamination of all the former Soviet Republics, anything nuclear is a contentious issue. Between 1949 and 1989, the authorities executed more than 750 nuclear tests in Kazakhstan, the bulk of these, including the USSR’s first successful atomic explosion - codenamed Joe-1 - taking place in the Semipalatinsk Polygon (proving ground) in the north-east of the country. By far the hardest hit area, Semipalatinsk saw 456 tests, which affected two million people across 300 square kilometers. Eager to know what to expect in the event of a nuclear war, in 1957 the Soviets secretly opened Dispensary Number Four in Semipalatinsk. Shipping in spectators - teachers were instructed to have their pupils watch explosions - the facility observed and analyzed the effects of radiation on the populous and reported their findings back to Moscow. In this post-apocalyptic land, elevated levels of cancer, tuberculosis and mental illness persist. Today, people swim in crater lakes left by blasts which dot the steppe, though animals won’t go near the water. With all agriculture banned, a vast swathe of land still remains off-limits. Pregnancies are still screened for possible termination, with 6% of babies born “polygon.” Even in inhabited areas, Geiger counters read over 250; the normal level is just fifteen. In their headlong rush to abandon the empire upon the collapse of the USSR, the Russians left more than an undetonated payload in the mines of Semipalatinsk. As soldiers rioted over conditions and unpaid wages, upon its independence Kazakhstan inherited the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world. With Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi sniffing around, it was widely rumored that the Iranians, who the CIA publicly alleged to be “actively shopping,” had offered $300 million for weapons-grade uranium. Arriving in Kazakhstan post-haste, through a combination of threats, the promise of a seat at the international table...

1 week ago

Bridging East and West: Kazakhstan’s Changing Foreign Policy in the 2020s

In the wake of significant geopolitical and social change, Kazakhstan has been noticeably reassessing its official and economic relations with foreign powers. Formerly a part of the USSR, Kazakhstan has positioned itself since the collapse of the bloc in 1991 as a country with a triangulated approach to foreign relations. This means that it attempts to maintain cordial relationships with both of its powerful neighbors, Russia and China, whilst also improving relations with countries in the West. Now, this multi-vector foreign policy appears to be shifting as Kazakhstan re-evaluates its priorities in a world that has seen both a global pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.   Russia Kazakhstan is allied with Russia in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), but this relationship was put under strain even prior to Russia’s war in Ukraine. In a memorable speech from September 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his view that “Kazakhs never had any statehood,” and that their desire to align themselves more closely with Russia was “profound.” These statements caused Nursultan Nazarbayev, then President of Kazakhstan, to threaten to remove his country from the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a bloc largely dominated by Russia. This threat was not acted upon, however, and Kazakhstan remains a member to this day. Nonetheless, it was an indication of cooling relations long before the current global state of affairs, and a precursor to a shift in how Astana sees Kazakhstan being positioned on the world stage in future. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24th February 2022, Kazakhstan’s foreign relations have taken an ever more decisive turn. While Astana does not officially support international sanctions against Russia, citing the knock-on effects these sanctions create for Kazakhstani businesses - Russia remains a strong trade partner and a key part of Kazakhstan’s supply chain for land-based trade due to their long, shared border - it has nevertheless complied with them. This purely economic reasoning for not officially supporting international sanctions places Kazakhstan at odds with Belarus, which is an example of a former Soviet state that remains allied to Russia and whose leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, derided by many as a dictator, has been vocal in his support of Russia’s political actions, allowing Belarusian territory to be used to further Russia’s strategic goals in the war against Ukraine. In sharp contrast, Astana has made it clear that it will not allow Russia to use Kazakh territory in an attempt to circumvent international sanctions. In an effort to avoid incurring secondary international sanctions due to its ties with Russia, Kazakhstan has invested in an electronic monitoring system, launched in spring 2023, for goods purchased from Western countries passing through its territory for re-export to the EAEU. This system tracks goods until they reach their final destination, thus aiming to prevent foreign players who wish to help Russia evade international sanctions through this method, known as “parallel imports”. In October 2023, Kazakhstan also halted the export of over 100 products to Russia (including drones, military equipment,...

1 week ago

US and Central Asian Countries Launch C5+1 Critical Minerals Dialog

On February 8th, the U.S. Department of State hosted the inaugural meeting of the C5+1 Critical Minerals Dialog (CMD), an initiative announced by Joe Biden and the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan at their C5+1 summit in New York in September 2023. The C5+1 Critical Minerals Dialog aims to increase the region’s involvement in global critical minerals supply chains, strengthen economic cooperation, and advance the transition to clean energy, while also protecting Central Asia’s unique ecosystems, the U.S. Department of State said. The United States Under-Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Jose W. Fernandez, chaired the CMD meeting, and Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, Geoffrey Pyatt moderated the event, accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asian Affairs, John Mark Pommersheim, and colleagues from across the U.S. government who work on critical minerals.  Senior officials from each of the Central Asian governments shared their interest in developing investment opportunities in critical minerals that meet the highest environmental standards. The participants of the meeting underscored the benefit of working together to advance their countries’ shared critical minerals objectives including diversification of markets and development of technologies. 

1 week ago

Kazakhstan’s Government aims For 6% Economic Growth

In January 2024, Kazakhstan’s economic growth was 3.9%, it was announced at a government meeting on February 13th. The country’s new prime minister, Olzhas Bektenov emphasized that the government’s priority task for this year is to ensure growth of no less than 6%. Bektenov stressed that priority should be given to manufacturing products with high added value, as well as to exporting manufactured products. “Financial support should be provided proportionally depending on the level of technological complexity of production. That is, the more complex the production and the more technologically advanced, the lower the loan rate or the longer the loan term,” the prime minister said. Bektenov also announced that there will be no increase in the value-added tax rate. “We must look for other ways to replenish budget revenues,” he said.  On February 9th, at the first government meeting after he was appointed Kazakhstan’s prime minister, Bektenov outlined urgent tasks for his new cabinet, emphasizing that state budget expenditures must be clearly prioritized with an emphasis on obtaining full economic returns, and unproductive expenses should be completely excluded.  The prime minister demanded that large industrial enterprises, primarily in the extractive industries, submit specific plans for the creation of new facilities manufacturing products with high added value. He also recommended domestic industrial giants increase the purchases of Kazakh goods, works, and services.

1 week ago

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