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Putin has come to work on Central Asian garden beds

Dosym Satpaev


This time also, the visit of Russian President to Kazakhstan didn’t surprise anybody. Despite the declared multi-directionality, the Russian direction in Kazakhstan’s external policy is becoming apparent. This is an objective process of searching for a partner for realization of joint economic and political projects. Currently an interesting situation is in place, when Kazakhstan needs Russia as much as Russia needs us. They call it a symbiosis in biology, when two organisms cooperate to survive. Because the power in most of post-Soviet countries is personified, often international relations depend on personal sympathies of the Presidents. For example, in Central Asia, because of personal dislikes between Islam Karimov and Emomali Rakhmonov, the relations between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have always been rough. Therefore, personal good relations between Putin and Nazarbaev strongly influenced the external policies of the countries. Both of the pragmatic politicians understand that the period of throwing stones is over. It is time to collect them in order to build something. In additions, Kazakhstan is not only the partner for Russia in EEC (Eurasian Economic Community) and CES (Common Economic Space), but Kazakhstan also currently leads the CIS, which neither Moscow nor Astana plan to abandon Often, when the relations between Kazakhstan and Russia are discussed, the following question arises: “Are there really no problems in the relations of these two countries, and will there really be an integration duet on the post-Soviet territory?” If we consider only official statements, then there is a rosy situation. Kazakhstan is the only country within the CIS that doesn’t ask or demand anything from Russia. Besides, the issues with the boarded have been more or less resolved. The position of the countries on the Caspian issue also has more similarities than disagreements. There aren’t any anti-Russian moods in Kazakhstan, unlike in Georgia and Baltic states. The Kremlin doesn’t support the claims of some national-patriotic powers of Russia for northern territories of Kazakhstan, as well as the disputed on restraining the rights of Russian speaking population. Besides, unlike other Central Asian countries, which supply Russia with less qualified labor force, Kazakhstan’s capitals started to flow into Russia. Economic and political relations between Russia and Kazakhstan stood out on the background of other international relations within the post-Soviet territory, especially after Putin has come to power. Of course, we can argue that in October 1998 Kazakhstan and Russia signed the agreement and the program of economic cooperation until 2007. In addition, in October 1999, they signed the program of boarder cooperation between Kazakhstan’s regions and Russia also until 2007. However, the agreements on economic cooperation became actually effective only after the change of the political elite in Russia. By that time the reasons for closer economic cooperation emerged in Kazakhstan and Russia. After Putin came to power, there have been cardinal changes in Russian external policy with respect to other post-Soviet countries. The gist of the changes are the axiom of geopolitical games: “Economy first, and then politics”. Understanding the axiom resulted in Russia suggesting concrete economic initiatives to Kazakhstan on inter-boarder trade, regulating the tariffs and oil and gas partnership, rather than making unfounded declarations of brotherhood between the countries. Thus, the proper combination of geopolitics and geoeconomy by Kazakhstan and Russia resulted in more intensive cooperation within the frameworks of different international unions, like EEC, CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organizatoin) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). It is worth noticing, then on the post-Soviet territory an integration core has formed, which consists of Putin and Nazarbaev, who actively work on close cooperation of the post-Soviet countries within the above organizations. Besides, new structures are created in order to speed up this process, for example, the Eurasian Development Bank, which was created by Russia and Kazakhstan for efficient realization of integration projects. Russia and Kazakhstan recently entered a new direction of cooperation: extraction and enrichment of uranium. I think that Russia was put on her guards by Kazakhstan’s uranium ambitions, which were declared by the President of “KazAtomProm”. This national company plans to arrange the full cycle of refining the nuclear fuel, rather than simply supply the external markets with uranium. The Russia considered that the best way to control this process is creation of International Center of Uranium Enrichment in Siberia. However, lately there forms a tendency of competition among Russia and Kazakhstan on entering the external resource markets. Currently these two countries are in the interesting situation, when the political partnership should be combined with economic competition. Most likely, Astana understands the issue. It is proved by Nazarbaev’s announcement, saying that Russia and Kazakhstan are partners’ rather than competitors in the oil and gas industry. If this had to be said, somebody didn’t think so. For example, we could observe the conflict of interests among Russia, Kazakhstan and foreign companies in the need to increase the transport capacity of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) to 67 million tons per year. Because if Russia insists on its decision, Kazakhstan’s economic interests would be damaged, because it plans to increase it oil production to 130 million tons per year to 2015, and now it already needs the expansion of capacity of CPC. A complicated situation formed around Orenburg gas refinery, which was expected by the basis for creating a joint venture between Kazakhstan and Russia. Solving all of the above problems was the goal Putin’s visit to Astana, where the issues of cooperation in oil and gas field were considered, including the prospects of expanding the capacity of oil pipeline “Atyrau - Samara” and CPC. However, Kazakhstan has already identified its priority projects and carries them out based on its national interests. The projects are the oil pipelines Western Kazakhstan – Western China and BTC (Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan). In other projects Kazakhstan is going to take part together with Russia. The problem is that Russia and Kazakhstan depend on each other. Kazakhstan’s oil and gas are supplied to the world markets through Russia, while Uzbekistan’s and Turkmenistan’s resources are supplied to Russia through Kazakhstan. Russia understands that supplies of Russian gas to Europe depends on stability of supplies from Central Asia. Therefore, our countries have to cooperate, even when there are some signs of competition. For example, some Russian companies have already expressed their interest in supplied their oil to China through Kazakhstan. Besides, EEC is the mechanism of solving economic problems of the member-states; using the mechanism Kazakhstan and Russia can reach the consensus. It is unlikely, that this situation will change after Putin leaves his post, Russia will continue following its current external policy. After all, Moscow has understood that Kazakhstan wants to expand its export possibilities, just as Russia wants the same. Kazakhstan is not the partner to be forced on anything, because besides Kazakhstan Russia doesn’t have many loyal allies in the CIS. Kazakhstan doesn’t depend on Russian gas, like Belarus or Ukraine. But unlike Astana, Minsk with every year becomes less of a partner for Russia and it also launched a confrontation with the Western countries. Moscow sees that the USA, EU and China pay a lot of attention to Kazakhstan now, thus, Astana has much more space for its maneuvers that other post-Soviet countries. That’s why Putin’s visit in May targeted eliminating all misunderstandings with Russia’s strategic partner – Kazakhstan, in order to create a favorable diplomatic ground Putin’s successor. A similar goal was pursued during the attempt to create a gas triumvirate, consisting of Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. At that the gas pipeline along the Eastern coast of Caspian Sea was discussed. The project suggested using the gas pipeline to combine Turkmen and Kazakh gas and send it through Russia to Europe. Probably, modernizing the gas transportation system Central Asia – Center rather than building a new gas pipeline was aimed. This project was also discussed when Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, new President of Turkmenistan, and Karim Masimov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, visited Moscow. If this project is realized, it would kill the possibility of building trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which is lobbied by the USA and EU. Putin’s visit to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan happened at the same time with the energy summit of the so called Five (Poland, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan) in Poland on 11 – 13 May. They discussed building oil pipeline Odessa – Brody (Ukraine) and Plotsk – Gdansk by 2011. The President of Kazakhstan was also expected on the summit, but apparently he thought that oil and gas partnership with Russia was of higher priority. Of course, Moscow is more interested in the creation of this gas pipeline; it eliminates the threat of building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline that leaves out Russia. Kazakhstan has already politely refused to participate in Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project, because it received some benefits from Russia, like the increase of the volumes of oil transit through Russian territory. Regarding Turkmenistan, some experts think that the agreement will require building a gas pipeline from the gas fields “Osman” and “Southern Yolotan” from the South-East of the country through all of Karakum desert. And it wouldn’t happen without Kazakhstan’s participation, whose gas is also required in order to fill the pipeline with the capacity of 30 billion cubic meters per year.

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