Alexey Borodavkin. Russia and Kazakhstan: Past, Present, Future

Alexey BORODAVKIN,

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

of the Russian Federation

to the Republic of Kazakhstan


Russia and Kazakhstan: Past, Present, Future

In their public speeches, the leaders of Russia and Kazakhstan, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbayev, rightly emphasise that our states are the closest neighbors. I believe that in these words lies not just a statement of the well-known political and geographical reality, but also something more related to the closeness of the Russian and Kazakh peoples, their historically evolved worldview, system of values and friendly fraternal feelings for each other.

Huge Eurasian spaces do not divide our states, but unite them. The Great Steppe firmly tied Russians and Kazakhs. As L. Gumilyov wisely noted, Ancient Rus' shared its borders with the Great Steppe; steppe inhabitants and Slavs learned to live in ethnic symbiosis. Let us recall how often Russian and Kazakh folklore praises the endless field and steppe, the open space stretching beyond the horizon, the feeling of freedom and will in the soul of a rider galloping on a horse. By the way, the phrases “volya-volnaya" or in Kazakh “yerik-zhiger" in their broad sense familiar only to you and me, is not present in any other language.

In his article “Seven Facets of the Great Steppe," First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbassy Nursultan Nazarbayev – succinctly and precisely stated, “The main plots, characters and motives of our culture have no boundaries and should be systematically researched and promoted throughout the whole space of Central Eurasia and in the whole world."

Centuries of joint history not only brought together, but literally “fused" our peoples. Together we achieved victories, successes and tremendous feats and passed through trials and tribulations. We have common pride for the great accomplishments and common grief for the tragedies suffered.

The history of Kazakhs dates back thousands of years. But its independence after the collapse of the USSR, Kazakhstan gained 27 years ago. By that time, the republic had an established government system; a developed economy, including energy, mining, high-tech industrial production and efficient agriculture, and was known for a high level of education, science and medicine. It was from the Kazakh land that humanity first stepped into space. The USSR's nuclear shield was also forged here, which made it possible to create strategic parity and prevent the horror of the American atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But no one has also forgotten the repression and famine of the 30s, the forced deportation of peoples and the suppression of dissent. All this is also our common history.

I am sure that one should not try to make out of it only a good or only a bad thing, to strike a certain balance. Dogmatism in this case is absolutely inappropriate. But it is impossible not to see the bleak results that some states located to the south of the Central Asian region have experienced in choosing a different historical path of development. So the assessment of the events of our past has a projection into the present, and, therefore, it is very relevant. In order to develop and form a single objective perception of the common history of Russia and Kazakhstan, the two countries created a working group of historians in 2017.

The collapse of the Soviet Union demanded new interstate relations between Russia and Kazakhstan based on mutual respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, the principle of non-interference in internal affairs and respect for the legitimate interests of each other. It was not easy for Moscow and Astana to implement this agenda, but our joint efforts paid off. They managed to preserve the main thing – friendship and brotherhood of our peoples – and now, of independent states. These basic concepts have been translated into international legal language; the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan of May 25, 1992 and the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan on Good Neighbourly Relations and Alliance in the 21st Century of Nov. 11, 2013 have been signed and are in force. The legal framework of our interstate relations includes hundreds of documents and continues to be improved and enriched. And we are talking not only about bilateral agreements, but also about multilateral legal agreements within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), etc.

The obligations contained therein made Russian-Kazakh relations exemplary – we are allies in the field of security and partners in economic integration. This new level of interstate relations between Russia and Kazakhstan is mutually beneficial. There is no winner or loser in our cooperation. It is important for Russia that Kazakhstan remains a politically stable and economically prosperous, friendly state to us; it is important that our ally has the necessary potential to participate in repelling common external threats to our countries. I am sure that Astana is also guided by a similar strategic attitude towards Russia.

In the modern world, a concentration of various types of threats and challenges to the security of states is growing. Instead of dialogue and negotiations in international relations, illegal use of military force is increasingly practiced nowadays. We see multiple cases of unlawful interference in the internal affairs of states under various unseemly pretexts with the aim of overthrowing legitimate governments. Entire regions are subject to aggression by international terrorist groups. Organised crime and drug trafficking are becoming more common. Therefore, Moscow and Astana, together with other CSTO and SCO member states, have combined their efforts to effectively counter these threats, ensure high collective defenses and prevent and promptly stop attempts to sow conflicts and chaos on their territory. This course of our countries is supported by intensive bilateral military and military-technical cooperation; moreover, there are preferential terms of purchasing armaments and military equipment in Russia for allied Kazakhstan.

Our bilateral strategic partnership is also relevant in foreign affairs. Russia and Kazakhstan, on the basis of trust and openness, coordinate their diplomatic efforts and come up with joint positions on the overwhelming majority of topical issues on the global agenda. This cooperation is becoming more effective thanks to the growing credibility of Kazakhstan in the world, as evidenced by the election of the Republic of Kazakhstan as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the summit of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Astana in 2010, the success of EXPO 2017, the recognition of regular Congresses of World and Traditional Religions held in the capital of Kazakhstan and the ongoing Astana Process, which is an effective mechanism for the Syrian settlement. In the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, Russia and Kazakhstan strongly oppose attempts by some states to impose their will on others, condemn illegal unilateral sanctions, call for preserving the nuclear weapons control system and preventing an arms race in space, demanding that the revival of neo-Nazism must be stopped and advocating for universal rules on information security. One of the brightest recent examples of our successful cooperation is the joint work to promote the Kazakh initiative to adopt the UN Code of Conduct Towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism.

Kazakhstan together with Russia made a significant contribution to the definition of the legal status of the Caspian Sea – the relevant convention, as it is known, was signed in Aktau on Aug. 12 . Now, we are talking about accelerating the ratification process of this crucial international legal instrument and the translation of its provisions into the language of practical matters.

Russia was among the states that actively supported Kazakhstan's bid to hold the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Astana in 2020. We believe that this success of Kazakhstan will help to overcome the crisis in the Organisation and strengthen the positions of the EAEU in the international trade system.

Another important area of our joint work is the coordination of efforts aimed at stabilising the situation in Afghanistan, which, unfortunately, has catastrophically degraded since deployment of the U.S. military in that country. Our countries are members of the Moscow Format on Afghanistan, as well as the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group.

Russia and Kazakhstan maintain coordination in the CIS, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), OSCE and SCO and this benefits the organisations and ensures that the voices of Moscow and Astana are well heard in the international community.

We welcome the desire of the countries of Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, for closer cooperation to improve the well-being of their people and jointly solve the pressing problems of the region. Russia is ready to fully support this attitude.

It is important that Russia and Kazakhstan together advocate for “integration of integrations" with the participation of the EAEU and the European Union (EU) and the formation, as suggested by Putin, of a large Eurasian partnership involving other interstate associations located in the area from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Indian oceans.

At the same time, Russia and Kazakhstan in their foreign policy are guided, above all, by their own national interests. These interests, as a rule, coincide. But even in cases where disagreements arise between our countries, for example, on the conditions and rates of nuclear disarmament, Moscow and Astana are trying to find a compromise, seeking to bring our positions closer.

It is no secret that the active development of Russian-Kazakh allied relations and integration ties displeases some people. Adherents of the unipolar world order do not see Kazakhstan as an equal partner in international affairs, but as an object of their influence in order to destabilise the political situation in the country and in Central Asia, as they did it in some states in the post-Soviet area, as well as in the Balkans, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Syria... If you look at history, this list can be supplemented with dozens of other examples of gross interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, provoking bloody conflicts and unleashing many years of war. Moreover, in order to realise their ugly geostrategic goals of total domination in the world and deter Russia, unipolar strategists do not disdain to even cooperate with extremists and terrorists. Not to mention all sorts of illegal embargoes and sanctions, trade wars, political and financial pressure and blackmail. The need to counter this threat by the joint efforts of the entire world community, whose active participants are Russia and Kazakhstan, has become an urgent task on the global agenda. We do not close the door to dialogue; we are ready to solve problems on an equal basis.

The economic interaction between our countries in recent years has reached a higher integration level. Thanks to the EAEU, which was initiated, as you know, by President Nazarbayev, Russia and Kazakhstan demonstrate impressive results of bilateral trade – in 2018 it will reach approximately $19 billion with an increase of about 9 percent.

Russia leads the list of main trading partners of Kazakhstan. This foreign trade is dominated by goods with high added value. The gross Russian investment in the economy of Kazakhstan, amounting to $12.6 billion, also seems substantial. Moreover, in just the first half of 2018, Russia invested another $821 million in Kazakhstan, mainly in the manufacturing sector. The number of Russian-Kazakh joint ventures is constantly growing. Today, there are more than 6,000 of them, which is one-third of all joint ventures with foreign participation in Kazakhstan. AvtoVAZ, EuroChem, Gazprom, KAMAZ, Lukoil, Mechel, Rosatom, Roscosmos, Rostec, Rostselmash, Rusal, Russian Copper Company, Vimpelcom (Beeline), Yandex and many other large, medium and small Russian enterprises successfully operate in the Kazakh market.

Cooperation in the financial and banking sector is increasing due to the presence of Russian banks in Kazakhstan, including Alfabank, Gazprombank, Russian Agricultural Bank Sberbank and VTB Bank. Almost 70 percent of Russian-Kazakh foreign trade and other financial transactions are carried out in national currencies. Soon, this figure will reach 75 percent. A number of promising Russian-Kazakh projects are expected to appear in the banking sector in the near future.

Russian participation in the Kazakh economy gives it additional positive dynamics, brings significant income to the country's budget, contributes to the improvement of the technological base, provides Kazakh goods an access to foreign markets, creates new jobs, helps to improve the skills of the labour force and creates conditions for more active use of the Astana International Financial Centre. The strengthening integration ties between Russia and Kazakhstan within the framework of the EAEU allow for a mutually beneficial approach to fulfill the task set for the union – to achieve free and mutually beneficial movement of goods, services, capital and labour throughout the EAEU.

Of course, the oil and gas component has traditionally played a big role in Russian-Kazakh economic cooperation. It is not only about the production of this raw material, but also about its deep processing and transportation. This involves development of hydrocarbon fields in the Caspian Sea, improving the quality of gas, willingness to participate in the gasification of Astana and Baikonur, transit of Kazakh oil to foreign markets, supply of new technological equipment, etc.

Due to the transit geographical position of Russia and Kazakhstan, special attention is paid to the further strengthening of our transport and logistics connectivity. The construction of the Russian section of the highway along the Kazan-Orenburg-Akbulak border route with Kazakhstan, as the final link in the international Western Europe-Western China corridor, has been completed. The launch of a ferry service between the ports of Russia and Kazakhstan on the Caspian Sea is not far off. The project of the high-speed cargo-passenger railway corridor called Eurasia (Beijing-Astana-Moscow-Berlin) is also underway.

The idea of building up Russian-Kazakh cooperation in the field of tourism is actively moving forward.

The growing integration and the complementary nature of the economies of our countries play an important role not only in strengthening the existing economic ties, but also in solving the most important tasks of both Russia and Kazakhstan in their economic strategic development. A new unprecedented wave of technological revolution at the beginning of the 21st century formed dozens of world-changing trends dramatically significant for each country. It is extremely important for our countries to be at the forefront of the global processes of economic digitalisation, which transform not only state institutions and businesses, but also all areas of our daily life. In this regard, there is a need to continue to actively implement the priorities of the digital agenda of the EAEU and strive to create a single digital space. It also entails the formation of a single Eurasian electricity market.

From the point of view of combining the efforts of Russia and Kazakhstan to get to the heights of the fourth technological revolution, our bilateral cooperation in the field of space exploration deserves special attention. Our states not only managed to save the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which regularly launches spacecraft, but also begin the implementation of the project to create the Baiterek Space Rocket Complex at Baikonur using a promising Russian medium-lift launch vehicle with a high level of environmental safety. This year, the Zenit-M Space Rocket Complex, which is supposed to be reconstructed, was withdrawn from the lease and transferred to Kazakh partners. In addition, there are other joint projects. In particular, the launch of the next KazSat spacecraft is just around the corner, joint engagement of third countries to the commercialisation of the cosmodrome, installation of unified information collection stations of the GLONASS system in Kazakhstan and much more is in the pipeline.

The interaction of Russia and Kazakhstan in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy is successfully developing. There are six joint ventures. For many years, the basis of Russian-Kazakh cooperation in this area has been the comprehensive programme, which, for the first time, was signed back in 2006 and updated every four years. Today, the Russian and Kazakh parties understand that the time has come for the programme to be updated. Given the progress of the negotiations, it can be said with confidence that this document will be signed before the end of this year. In the future, Kazakhstan will create its own nuclear energy base. As for Russia, we are ready to participate in the construction of the first nuclear power plant (NPP) of Russian design here.

Russian-Kazakh allied relations and integration ties are directed to the future. Therefore, the priority is to work with young people. This, first of all, is about cooperation in the field of education.

Russia trains highly qualified personnel for the national economy of Kazakhstan. More than 70,000 Kazakh citizens study at Russian universities and in the future will successfully use their knowledge for the benefit of their homeland. This is achieved, in particular, due to the fact that Russian and Kazakh citizens have equal rights to receive a Russian education. Thanks to this, annually more than 9,000 Kazakhs independently enroll in higher education institutions of Russia getting free education. More than 450 people receive scholarships from the Russian budget. In order for this positive dynamic not to fade away, there is a need to support the full-fledged teaching of the Russian language in secondary schools of Kazakhstan.

Russian education can be also obtained in Kazakhstan. For example, there is a Kazakh branch of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, which has trained more than 1,800 highly qualified specialists with the most popular qualifications. In addition, branches of other famous Russian universities are also present in Kazakhstan. There is an opportunity to graduate from Russian universities with double diplomas, which can be given by many Kazakh and Russian educational institutions. In addition, the Joint Action Plan of Russia and Kazakhstan for 2019-2021, signed by the presidents of our countries on Nov. 9, provides for the opening of a Russian-Kazakh university and school in Kazakhstan.

Organisations of Russia and Kazakhstan closely cooperate in priority areas of science and technology. Thus, in the territory of Kazakhstan, Russian scientists created an experimental facility based on the Kazakh Tokamak for Material Testing, which was launched during EXPO 2017. Another example is the mutually beneficial cooperation of the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas and KazMunaiGas Exploration Production on the joint development of a concept for the further development of oil fields in the West Kazakhstan region. One should also mention the long-term joint activity of Russian and Kazakh scientists within the walls of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (Dubna, Russia).

In 2018, Kazakhstan launched the implementation of about 240 research projects with the participation of Russian scientists. About 70 of them are in the field of sustainable use of natural resources; about 60 of them in the field of information, telecommunications and space technology and more than 30 in the field of energy and engineering. These projects are designed for three years; over 50 Russian universities and research institutes take part in their implementation.

The relations between our countries are dynamically developing in the cultural and humanitarian areas. Among the most recent examples, the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan held an exhibition entitled “Fifty masterpieces of the 20th century from the Tretyakov Gallery collection" as part of the celebrations of Astana's anniversary in the summer and autumn. This platform also hosted, as part of the Days of Culture of Russia in Kazakhstan, the exhibition called “Astana-Moscow, Moscow-Astana. Ornamental Rhythms of Eurasia. From Antiquity to Modernity" from the collections of the All-Russian Museum of Decorative, Applied and Folk Art, representing a large-scale project about the culture of Eurasia. In September-October, the Central Park of Astana hosted a large-scale exposition of the My Planet TV channel on the theme “Russia. Travel Ideas," where everyone could get acquainted with the photographs of journalists, photographers and travellers about the natural and cultural diversity of Russia. The famous State Academic Kuban Cossack Choir held a concert with great success in the Palace of Peace and Accord, Astana.

The literati and writers of our countries also maintain close ties and exchange experience at various venues. Thus, the International Writers Forum (Almaty) and the Eurasian Literary Forum “Energy of the Word in the Modern World" (Astana) were held in September.

There are plans to carry out large-scale work on the translation into Russian and the publication of “Anthology of Modern Kazakh Prose" and “Anthology of Modern Kazakh Poetry." Moreover, at the initiative of the Writers' Union of Kazakhstan, with the assistance of the Russian Literaturnaya Gazeta (Literary Newspaper) and the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Russian Federation, three Kazakhstan-Russia literary almanacs have been issued and the fourth publication is being prepared for presentation this year.

It is impossible to cover all aspects of Russian-Kazakh allied relations and integration ties in one article. But, summing up some intermediate results, it should be stated that cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan is comprehensive and is improving every year. Our brotherly states and peoples have common goals, which require a lot of hard work to be attained.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the readers of the Diplomatic Herald on the upcoming New Year and wish you good health, well-being and every success!

Created at : 21.12.2018, 10:55, Updated at : 21.12.2018, 10:55