Imangali Tasmagambetov. Kazakhstan and Russia: Understanding the Past and Priorities for the Future

Imangali TASMAGAMBETOV,

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

of the Republic of Kazakhstan

to the Russian Federation

Kazakhstan and Russia:

Understanding the Past and Priorities for the Future


Meeting between President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev on the sidelines of the 15th Kazakhstan-Russia Interregional Cooperation Forum in Petropavlovsk (Kazakhstan), Nov. 9, 2018.

The relationship between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation may be viewed as a model of interstate relations. President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, who can rightly be considered the architect of modern Kazakh-Russian relations, reminded the country of this constant again in his annual State of the Nation Address on Oct. 5.

Strategic partnership is based on the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Alliance in the 21st Century (Ekaterinburg, 2013) signed by the Presidents of Kazakhstan and Russia. This comprehensive document is the very essence of the entire legal framework of Kazakh-Russian relations, which includes approximately 200 treaties, agreements and protocols on them signed from 1991-2018. The legal framework is well-balanced. There are approximately 60 instruments in the area of political, military and technical cooperation and more than 50 agreements in energy, industry, trade and finance. Meanwhile, more than 30 agreements have been concluded on space interaction and cooperation alone, including on the Baikonur launch site.

By the beginning of the 21st century, Kazakhstan and Russia had built a sustainable model of relations based on a permanent political dialogue at the highest level. Trust relations and regular meetings of the leaders of the two countries are the essential factor of political importance in building equitable and mutually beneficial interstate cooperation. They are complemented by intensive contacts at the government level and steadily increasing inter-parliamentary interaction.

The cornerstone of Kazakh-Russian relations is economic cooperation, both bilateral and multilateral. For the time being, all necessary mechanisms for the development of economic relations have been created.

Economic interaction is regulated by the intergovernmental commission headed by the deputy prime ministers and its seven subcommissions on the main cooperation areas. Traditionally, mutual trade is one the drivers of bilateral processes between our countries.

Despite the downturn in the global economy and anti-Russian sanctions imposed by a number of states, our countries have maintained the progressive development of trade and economic relations. Russia traditionally maintains a leading position among Kazakhstan's trading partners; its share in the foreign trade turnover of Kazakhstan is 18.8 percent. According to the Statistics Committee of the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2017 recorded a significant increase in mutual trade between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation: the trade turnover amounted to $16 billion, an increase of 25.6 percent compared to 2016. The trade turnover in January-August reached $11.3 billion and grew by 8.3 percent over the same period last year.

The only Trade Representation of the Republic of Kazakhstan abroad was opened in Russia; its key function is to promote Kazakh exports and attract direct investment to our country.

Mutual investment retains considerable potential. According to the National Bank of Kazakhstan, the cumulative direct investment from 2005 to the first half of 2018 from Kazakhstan to Russia amounted to $3.6 billion; from Russia to Kazakhstan, $12.6 billion. There are more than 9,000 enterprises in Kazakhstan with Russian participation, which is more than one-third (37.5 percent) of the total number of enterprises with foreign capital in Kazakhstan.

The National Export Strategy of Kazakhstan named Russia a “country of priority export interest" and included it in the top 30 priority countries for generating investment in target industries.

The energy sector is the driver of bilateral economic cooperation. Russian companies are actively involved in the development of Kazakhstan's Karachaganak, Korolevskoye and Tengiz oil and gas fields. Preparations are underway for the implementation of joint projects at the Khvalynskoye, Kurmangazy and Tsentralnoye transboundary fields. Kazakh and Russian oil is transported to third countries based on mutually beneficial approaches. The companies of the two countries closely cooperate in a project to expand the Caspian Pipeline Consortium.

The latest landmark decision in the energy sector was the signing on Oct. 3 of the Protocol on Amendments to the Intergovernmental Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation in Oil and Petroleum Products Supply of Dec. 9, 2010. Previously, there was an agreement in effect on duty-free supply of Russian gasoline in the amount of about one million tonnes annually to Kazakhstan, which provided for a ban on the export of Kazakhstan's own gasoline. The protocol creates opportunities for the opening of export of light petroleum products from modernised Kazakh refineries. The changes will allow regulating the supply of petroleum products between Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as the export of petroleum products from the Republic of Kazakhstan outside the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) at the level of the energy agencies of the two countries. Thus, our country will be able to make efficient decisions on the opening/closing of export or import of certain types of petroleum products depending on the balance of the domestic market of petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL).

Kazakhstan and Russia, due to their geographical location, are actively working to build bilateral transport and transit capacity. In September 2017, the Protocol on Amendments to the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Specifics of the Legal Regulation of the Activity of Railway Enterprises, Institutions and Organisations of Oct. 4, 2016 came into force. The document simplified the transit of passengers across the Kazakh-Russian border.

In the framework of intergovernmental air service agreements between Kazakhstan and Russia, there are approximately 175 regular flights a week. Kazakhstan's airlines operate 85 flights a week to 10 cities of the Russian Federation; Russian airlines, 90 flights a week to 12 cities of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Authorised agencies and organisations continue to collaborate as part of the project to develop the road infrastructure of the Western Europe-Western China International Transit Corridor. Following the commissioning of the Kazakh and Chinese sections of this corridor, 2.1 million tonnes of cargo, a record amount in the last five years, was transported by road through the territory of Kazakhstan. Finalising the construction of a corridor in the Russian Federation will help to increase these figures several times. Compared with existing alternative corridors, Western Europe-Western China is better in terms of length and transportation time. Thus, transportation from the Chinese port of Lianyungang to the borders of European states by sea is reached in 45 days and along the Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR) – 14 days, whereas transportation through the Western Europe-Western China corridor will take up to 10 days.

Innovation interaction becomes stronger. As part of bilateral agreements, Kazakhstan's Autonomous Cluster Fund's Park of Innovative Technologies (PIT AFC) cooperates with the Skolkovo Foundation and the Technopark of Novosibirsk Academgorodok. A PIT ACF representative office opened in the Skolkovo Technopark in 2017. The mission of the representative office is to create conditions for Kazakh start-ups to enter the EAEU market and provide expert support in the form of educational and acceleration programmes and a soft landing platform.

The development of interregional relations is an important area of economic cooperation. Kazakhstan and Russia have the longest continuous land border in the world of 7,500 kilometres, along which 7 Kazakh and 12 Russian regions are located. Thanks to the efforts of Presidents Nazarbayev and Vladimir Putin, a new format of interaction has been successfully tested in Kazakh-Russian relations – annual interregional cooperation forums. This year, this event with the traditional participation of the heads of the two states was held on Nov. 9 in Petropavlovsk. It can be clearly seen that the forums contributed to the development of interregional relations and gave an additional impetus to bilateral trade.

It should be noted that the Kazakh-Russian example of interregional cooperation could not but affect the achievement of the multilateral consensus on the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in Aktau in August, creating new opportunities for building up comprehensive cooperation at the regional level.

Kazakhstan and Russia largely determine the development vector of integration processes throughout the Eurasian space. Our states are rightfully considered the founders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), EAEU and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). At the same time, the EAEU, initiated by President Nazarbayev, remains the most important priority for Kazakh-Russian interaction. The EAEU is becoming one of the influential interstate associations that has proven its viability in the global economy.

At present, due to common efforts, Eurasian integration is becoming increasingly comprehensive. Since Jan. 1, the EAEU Customs Code, developed jointly with the business community, has entered into force; almost 70 percent of the proposals and initiatives received from entrepreneurs were included in the final version of the Code.

Work continues on building common markets for energy resources (electricity, gas, oil and petroleum products), a common market for services and a common market for medicines.

The implementation of the coordinated EAEU transport policy has been launched. Common tariffs for goods transportation by rail are already in force, reducing the tariffs for consumers more than two times due to the transfer of transport control to the external border and the time for goods transportation within the EAEU has decreased.

In accordance with global trends, one of the key areas for EAEU development is the digital agenda. In October 2017, the heads of the EAEU member states approved the main areas for implementing the EAEU digital agenda until 2025. For purposes of practical implementation of initiatives, a special project office is being established within the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC). President Nazarbayev proposed to set up an office for managing digital projects in Astana based on the International Technology Park of IT Start-ups titled Astana Hub. As the head of state noted, the Astana Hub infrastructure can provide all necessary conditions for the full operation of this digital office.

In general, the main positive aspects of Eurasian economic integration for Kazakhstan are progressive overcoming of continental isolation, expansion of sales markets, movement towards establishing equal access to common infrastructure and ensuring the “four freedoms" – free movement of goods, labour, services and capital.

Kazakhstan and Russia are constantly “comparing notes" on issues of the international agenda. The cooperation of the two states is not only a regional security factor within such organisations as the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and SCO, but it also contributes to the settlement of complex international problems. Our countries are in favor of consolidating the international community in countering terrorism, strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime, resolving conflicts in the Middle East by peaceful diplomatic means, maintaining the agreements reached on the Iranian nuclear programme and taking consistent steps to rebuild Afghanistan.

There is a common understanding between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation on countering the new challenges of our time. Speaking from the UN General Assembly in 2015, Nazarbayev and Putin voiced the idea of building a united front for countering terrorism, all participants of which would act in accordance with international law. Three years later, more than 70 states responded to this call by agreeing to create a coalition striving to eliminate the international terrorism threat. In September, on the margins of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, the initiative of the president of Kazakhstan on the adoption of the Code of Conduct towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism was implemented.

It should be noted that Astana and Moscow have built the optimal format of interaction in the UN. It is not by chance that the beginning of Kazakhstan's non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council in January 2017 coincided with the start of the Syrian talks in Astana, which helped achieving stabilisation in Syria and giving an impetus to the Geneva talks. The Astana format today remains the only negotiating mechanism for stabilising the situation in Syria and an important factor in launching a political process to address the Syrian conflict.

Cultural and humanitarian cooperation remains an important part of bilateral relations between our countries. Kazakh-Russian relations in this area are successfully developing within the programme of cooperation in the field of culture between the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2014-2016. The high efficiency of this programme contributed to its prolongation for 2017-2019. The programme provides for the expansion of contacts between artistic unions, theatres and museums in the fields of literature and translation, cinematography, folk art and librarianship.

Cooperation in new directions is being strengthened. On Oct. 16 in Moscow, a memorandum of cooperation was signed between the National commission on the implementation of the Rukhani Zangyru programme and Russian partners of the Modern Kazakhstan culture in the global world project. The Anthologies of Modern Kazakh Prose and Anthologies of Modern Kazakh Poetry will be translated and published in Russian in cooperation with the Publishing House of M. Lomonosov Moscow State University, as well as the Moscow association of the Union of Russian Writers.

Special attention is paid to developing cooperation in the field of education. Russia is becoming one of the most attractive destinations for Kazakh youth. It should be noted that the Kazakhs rank first among foreign students studying in Russia. To date, more than 65,000 Kazakh students are studying in various higher education institutions of Russia. This was made possible thanks to agreements concluded with Russia in the field of education.

Citizens of Kazakhstan have equal rights with Russian citizens when entering higher education institutions in Russia. There are a number of agreements between the two countries in the field of education, bilateral and multilateral, signed within the CIS, SCO and EAEU.

In the medium term, priorities of Kazakh-Russian cooperation are related to maintaining a high rate of versatile and mutually beneficial interaction. The potential of joint work is quite high in the field of innovation and digitalisation, increasing transport and transit potential and cooperation in the space industry. The Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation are still the leading actors in stabilising the regional security system and progressively developing integration processes in Eurasia. Together, Astana and Moscow can positively influence the enhancing of global security, including the strengthening of strategic stability through reinforcing the non-proliferation regime and countering the new challenges of our time.

Created at : 21.12.2018, 10:35, Updated at : 21.12.2018, 10:35