Kazakhstan, the OSCE, and the US

by Nathan Hamm on 9/26/2006 · 2 comments

As is abundantly clear, Kazakhstan desperately wants to chair the OSCE in 2009. And, given that many OSCE members look at Kazakhstan as a potential supplier of much-needed oil and natural gas and feel that it’s potential value more than make up for its shortcomings in the reforms and human rights department, it has seemed as if Kazakhstan would be able to coast into the chairmanship. As Joshua Kucera reports at EurasiaNet though, the US is not so keen on a Kazakh chairmanship so soon.

Within the last two months, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly distributed a memo to US embassies in all 56 OSCE-member states, instructing American diplomats to resist Kazakhstani lobbying efforts. The OSCE operates on a consensus basis and so US opposition could well sink Kazakhstan’s 2009 chances.

“[The State Department] put it much more diplomatically, but the message was, we would like to encourage Kazakhstan’s aspirations to be chairman of one of the leading human rights multilateral institutions, but 2009 is premature,” said an official at the United States Helsinki Commission, which advises Congress on OSCE-related issues and has opposed Kazakhstan’s bid.

More than anything, the central goal of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy is to be treated as a “normal” (for lack of a better term) country, and things such as the OSCE chairmanship are powerful and intensely desired symbols of normality in Astana. The overall message of the US is one of friendship and hopes for expanded partnership with Kazakhstan, so will this inspire Kazakhstan to impress the US in the coming months in hopes of achieving its 2009 chairmanship goals?

Kucera reports this as a possibility, citing an August Nezavisimaya Gazeta article in which Deputy Foreign Minister/son-in-law of the president Rakhat Aliev said that the Kazakhstani parliament will adopt legislation that will dispel doubts about its fitness for OSCE chairmanship. I am confident, however, that his ideas of sufficient steps differ from those held by the State Department.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Narcogen September 26, 2006 at 11:51 pm

Exactly what part of dispelling doubts about the progress of democratic development in Kazakhstan is suggesting that Kazakhstan should forget being a Republic and instead become a Sultanate, as Aliev did just publicly earlier this month?

Nick September 27, 2006 at 6:25 am

I have a friend who went to see the Symphony Orchestra of Kurmangazy, National Conservatory of Kazakhstan, at the Barbican in London last night. He noted that the repertoire represented an East-West geopolitical progression (Central Asia-Russia-Europe):

Tles Kazhgaliev – The Steppe Legend;
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Concerto No.3 in D minor for Piano & Orchestra, op.30;
Johannes Brahms – Symphony No.1 in C minor, op.68.

It was, apparently, a wonderful concert in any case.

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