​Kairat SARYBAY "Disarmament Policy: Important Resource of Kazakh Diplomacy"


Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Austria,

Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan

to International Organisations in Vienna

Disarmament Policy: Important Resource of Kazakh Diplomacy

The Republic of Kazakhstan has earned the reputation of a reliable, predictable partner, a consistent supporter of building a more secure world based on equality and broad-based dialogue. Initiatives of President Nursultan Nazarbayev are highly appreciated by the international community.

There are many achievements of our country, such as implemented integration initiatives in Eurasia and convening the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, as well as the successful presidency of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2011-2012 and the UN Security Council in January 2018.

However, there is no doubt that Kazakhstan has gained the greatest popularity and authority in the world due to its strong commitment and active participation in the global process of nuclear disarmament. Saying without exaggeration, the nuclear disarmament policy has become kind of a brand, thanks to which Kazakhstan is known in the most remote parts of the world.

Nazarbayev personally made the first and most significant contribution to the nuclear disarmament process, when in 1991 by his Decree closed the Semipalatinsk test site – one of the largest nuclear test sites in the world.

Kazakhstan subsequently not only refused possessing nuclear weapons, but also completely disarmed the fourth largest nuclear capacity, which the country rightfully obtained after the collapse of the USSR and gaining independence in 1991.

At the Semipalatinsk test site the infrastructure of nuclear testing was demolished, including almost 200 tunnels and galleries. One thousand and forty nuclear warheads with the power of one megaton each, 104 intercontinental SS-18 ballistic missiles and 40 heavy TU-95 bombers equipped with X-55 cruise missiles with 370 tactical nuclear charges were destroyed or withdrawn from the territory of the country. One hundred and forty-eight intercontinental ballistic missile launch facilities were destroyed.

Press briefing following President Nursultan Nazarbayev's participation in the Nuclear Security Summit. Washington D.C., 1 April 2016. (Akorda.kz)

Since then, Kazakhstan, as aptly described by Nazarbayev, has become the “epicentre of peace." It is hardly possible to find a country that would propose so many ideas and initiatives to the international community aimed at achieving a nuclear-free world.

Many of the initiatives of the head of state have already been implemented; the others are at the implementation stage. Some ideas are directed to the future and require relentless efforts to achieve them. But all these initiatives have one thing in common – realism, pragmatism and striving for cooperation and sincere concern about the future of humanity.

Kazakhstan consolidates its efforts with other states active in disarmament issues and involves politicians and parliamentarians, scientists and public figures and ordinary people who care about the future of the planet.


It is not easy to unambiguously assess the current situation of the nuclear disarmament global process.

On the one hand, the situation is somewhat better than it was 30 years ago. The global number of nuclear warheads has decreased almost five times – from 70,000 in 1982 to approximately 15,000 today. The significance of START I (1991) and START III (2010), the US-Soviet and US-Russian agreements on limitation of strategic offensive arms in reducing the global nuclear threat, cannot be overemphasised.

On the other hand, the arsenals of nuclear weapons accumulated in the world are still enough to destroy life on the planet several times. States that possess nuclear weapons despite the objections of the rest of the world community continue to develop and improve them. The risk that terrorists may obtain nuclear weapons is increasing and this fact is even more frightening.

The President of Kazakhstan, in his Manifesto “The World. The XXI Century" promulgated in 2016, expressed deep concern about the future of humanity: “In the second half of the 20th century, as a result of successful negotiations, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia were reduced substantially. Five nuclear powers have announced and kept a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing. The process of forming regional security systems accelerated. However, today we are witnessing the erosion of these international security achievements."

The world in general, despite the efforts undertaken at the global and regional levels, has not become more predictable and safe. The conflict potential has increased significantly on the planet. The continuing regional armed conflicts, the growth of military budgets and the development of new types of weapons, including strategic ones, cause alarm.

The process of global nuclear disarmament is experiencing a prolonged stagnation. The international community cannot move forward on disarmament issues due to the lack of consensus and political will, and above all, the lack of mutual trust.

This was stated by Nazarbayev in New York at the UN Security Council thematic briefing “Non-proliferation of WMD: Confidence Building Measures" on Jan. 18:

“The cause of increasing mutual confidence among some countries, and at the global level, remains acute and is becoming ever more relevant. Confidence-building measures should remain on the agenda as the most important element in the maintenance of global security architecture, enhancing peace at the global level."


The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the cornerstone of the global nuclear disarmament process and the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Adopted in 1968, this landmark document marks its fiftieth anniversary this year.

Half a century ago, the adoption of the NPT was a milestone decision designed to stop the nuclear madness, which the world experienced after the Second World War, and which almost led to a nuclear apocalypse on the wave of the so-called Caribbean Crisis in 1962.

Political leaders at the time managed to realise the perniciousness of the nuclear arms race, which by the end of the 1960s involved many countries of the world. The main idea, which was laid in the foundation of this treaty, was the desire to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons both in the quantitative metrics and in the number of states, which possessed them and to create conditions for gradual and complete nuclear disarmament. In the famous Article 6 of the NPT, the five nuclear powers (China, France, Great Britain, Russia and the United States) undertook to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament.

Unfortunately, the erosion of the NPT regime was not completely prevented. The uncontrolled expansion of the circle of nuclear-weapon states remains one of the most serious threats in the 21st century. The North Korean nuclear programme, for the first time in many decades, once again brought the world to the brink of nuclear conflict.

In the absence of progress in the implementation of Article 6 of the NPT, non-nuclear countries are increasingly accusing “legal" nuclear-weapon holders – the five nuclear-weapon states – of failing to fulfill their obligations. The nuclear countries are suspected of striving for permanent possession of nuclear weapons and preserving their monopolistic, exclusive position.

Nazarbayev, in his speech in the United States to the representatives of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) in September 2006, noted: “Today, the world faces a paradoxical situation contradicting the main principles of international law: some are allowed to possess and upgrade nuclear weapons, while others are strictly forbidden to be engaged even in research and development. This is unjust, disproportionate and unfair."

In turn, states possessing nuclear weapons, primarily the five nuclear-weapon states, are discussing the necessity of maintaining their nuclear potentials at this stage as a means of ensuring the security of their countries and their allies. They talk about the need to sustain strategic stability based on the principle of mutually assured destruction – a term that practically became extinct after the end of the cold war, but recently it has been repeatedly used in the speeches of representatives of nuclear powers.

The thesis of nuclear powers on the preservation of nuclear weapons as a factor of their own security finds understanding among those countries which do not possess nuclear weapons, but which would like to have them. They raise a reasonable question: if some can have nuclear arsenals to ensure their security, then why are other countries deprived of this right?

The doctrine of nuclear deterrence was formulated during the Cold War. Apparently, it had some kind of rational grain, if for decades, despite a considerable number of conflict situations, the world managed to avoid the use of deadly weapons and fall into the total war for destruction. However, in a multipolar world such logic ceases to work.

Today, we are witnessing an extremely alarming trend in the transformation of nuclear weapons from a means of global deterrence (and, consequently, universal security) into a means of regional deterrence and, in a broader sense, solutions to regional problems. The threat of the sudden use of deadly weapons has significantly increased. This makes the modern world less predictable. The issue of using nuclear weapons is more complicated and it now depends not so much on global as on local factors. The current situation around the Korean Peninsula vividly illustrates this.

It is necessary to understand: is the concept of nuclear deterrence still relevant? And is the actual expansion of the “nuclear club" not a direct consequence of the fact that the possession of nuclear weapons is considered by the new nuclear-weapon countries as a deterrent, an arsenal designed to ensure security against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons by world nuclear powers or neighbours in the region who also have or are on the verge of owning them?

Thus, the main question to be considered is whether nuclear deterrence is a guarantee of human security or is it already increasingly threatening.

The President of Kazakhstan in September 2006 noted: “The obsolete concept of achieving security through mutual nuclear deterrence between rival states has been fully proven to be archaic."

The position of those countries which believe that the possession of nuclear weapons is an absolute guarantee of security seems unjustified.

Speaking at the International Conference titled “From a Nuclear Test Ban to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World" in Astana on Aug. 29, 2012, the head of state noted: “Nuclear weapons are suicidal for humanity. And from this point of view, aspiration for possession of nuclear weapons power is an absolute blasphemy."

The experience of Kazakhstan, which voluntarily renounced the possession of nuclear weapons, clearly shows that genuine long-term security guarantees are provided only by the sustainable social and economic development of any state, peaceful coexistence and mutually-beneficial cooperation with all countries.


Our country believes that the NPT was and remains the cornerstone of international security and the rejection of it would mean the collapse of the entire system. At the same time, the treaty does not completely fulfill the expectations put on it, remaining asymmetric and providing for sanctions only for non-nuclear states. It does not contain clear schemes for the response of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN to facts of violations by states of their obligations to the IAEA. Finally, the NPT allows its participants to leave the signatories without consequences. All these circumstances reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of the treaty.

Kazakhstan has repeatedly made initiatives aimed at strengthening the regime of the NPT. Realising deep problems related to the implementation of the NPT, President Nazarbayev, addressing the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly in 2007, called on the nuclear powers to move towards a world free of nuclear weapons, thereby demonstrating an example to others, as well as to take steps to ensure the effectiveness of the NPT and strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

“It is necessary," he stressed, “to develop clear mechanisms for influencing the countries possessing nuclear weapons which operate outside the NPT and to prevent countries from withdrawing from the treaty. It is necessary to achieve unconditional fulfillment by its participants of their commitments embodied in the unity of the three fundamental components: non-proliferation, peaceful use of atomic energy and disarmament."

If more or less effective measures of control and compliance have been developed to prevent the horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons, the vertical distribution, that is the quantitative build-up of nuclear weapons and their improvement, remains outside the control of the international community. Many nuclear states do not hide that they are modernising their nuclear arsenals.

President Nazarbayev, in his book “The Epicentre of the World", which was published in 2001, proposed the idea of developing a new universal treaty on comprehensive horizontal and vertical nuclear non-proliferation, which was designed to strengthen and ensure the universality of the NPT regime. The new document that could complement existing agreements in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament would guarantee the non-use of double standards and at the same time provide for clear obligations of the parties and mechanisms for applying sanctions to its violators.

Speaking at the UN Security Council thematic briefing “Non-proliferation of WMD: Confidence Building Measures" in New York on Jan. 18, the President proposed to complicate the withdrawal of states from the NPT, as well as “to work out a really working mechanism for applying tough measures against the acquisition and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," using the UN Security Council's toolkit for this purpose.

Worried about the lack of practical steps towards nuclear disarmament, the head of state, at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010 and in Seoul in 2012, initiated the adoption of the UN universal declaration on a nuclear-weapon-free world “in which the determination of all countries to move towards the ideals of a world free of nuclear weapons would be fixed" and which would be “an important step towards a nuclear weapons convention."

Addressing the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2015, he called for making the issue of building a world free of nuclear weapons the main goal of humanity in the 21st century. The adoption by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 23, 2015 of the Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, initiated by the President of Kazakhstan, was an important step towards the adoption of a universal, legally-binding instrument on the prohibition of nuclear weapons and their destruction.

In July 2017, 122 UN member states approved the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (NWPT) for signing. Unfortunately, the countries possessing nuclear weapons have refrained from participating in the negotiation process. Nevertheless, the new treaty has become an important stage on the way to the complete deliverance of humanity from the nuclear threat.

Earlier in 2006, Nazarbayev said: “The problem of universal and global disarmament will be solved when and only when it is decided not by the nuclear-weapon states, but by the international community – both nuclear and non-nuclear states." Now, we are witnessing the beginning of this process.

Kazakhstan not only became one of the states that supported the adoption of the NWPT, but also actively participated in its development. This choice is not accidental. There are few countries in the world that have suffered from nuclear weapons to a greater extent than the long-suffering land of Kazakhstan.

From 1949 to 1991 in the territory of our republic, 468 nuclear explosions thundered, of which 456 were at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. Their total power is equivalent to 2,500 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima. More than 1.5 million people have suffered from nuclear tests. Radiation pollution hit a huge area, roughly equal to the territory of modern Germany. So far, the consequences of nuclear testing have not been overcome, they continue to affect people's health. Such is the tragic legacy inherited by independent Kazakhstan from the era of the nuclear confrontation between the USSR and the US during the Cold War.

The gloomy date of Aug. 29, 1949, which marked the beginning of the era of nuclear confrontation, the day when the first Soviet nuclear explosion thundered at the Semipalatinsk test site, is in the past. On Aug. 29, 1991, Nazarbayev signed the now historic Decree on the Closure of the Nuclear Test Site. Today, Aug. 29, at the initiative of our country, is celebrated worldwide as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests. The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a relevant resolution in December 2009.

Nazarbayev showed great courage, having decided to ban nuclear tests in Kazakhstan in the face of the brutal pressure of the military-industrial complex of the former USSR. But he relied on the will of the people, who called for putting an end to the 40-year history of nuclear testing on the long-suffering land of Semey. In fact, the decree of Aug. 29, 1991 became the first act of genuine independence of our country.


The world's first legal ban on nuclear testing initiated the process of closing nuclear test sites around the world and served as a starting point in the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was opened for signature in 1996.

Unfortunately, the CTBT has not yet entered into force. This is hindered by the lack of signing or ratification of the treaty by eight countries of Annex 2 to the treaty China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the U.S. – without which the treaty cannot enter into force.

Despite the incompleteness of this important process, the CTBT organisation has already been established and is actively working on the site of the Vienna branch of the United Nations, which has impressive achievements.

The formation of the International Monitoring System (IMS), a global network of stations using modern technologies in the field of seismic, radionuclide, sonar and infrasound control, has practically been completed. The IMS is designed to ensure that no nuclear explosion is left undetected by the world community. The effectiveness of this system is indicated by the following fact: all six nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the new century were recorded in real time by the IMS, including its Kazakhstan sector.

Kazakhstan, being one of the most active members of the CTBT organisation, has done a lot to strengthen the ban on nuclear testing. Taking into account the contribution of our country to the process of banning nuclear tests, in 2015-2017 Kazakhstan together with Japan co-chaired the Conference on Article 14 of the CTBT concerning its entry into force.

The uniqueness of the co-chairpersonship of Kazakhstan and Japan was that both countries suffered from the use or testing of nuclear weapons and have the moral right to appeal to other states that have not signed and not ratified the CTBT to do so as soon as possible. The symbolism of the mission of the two countries was given by the fact that the co-chairpersonship was on the 70th anniversary of the first and only use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site and the 20th anniversary of the CTBT opening for signature.

In October 2015, President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe signed a Joint Statement in Astana in which they confirmed their strong commitment to the early entry into force of the CTBT. This document was the first adopted at such a high political level by the appeal of the two countries calling on states that did not sign or ratify the treaty.

This year, a conference of the Youth Group and the Group of Eminent Persons of the CTBT organisation is scheduled in Kazakhstan, which will once again attract broad international attention to the issue of the ban on nuclear tests and realise the goals of the UN General Assembly resolution on the International Day against Nuclear Tests initiated by Kazakhstan.

On Aug. 29, 2012 addressing the International Conference “From a Nuclear Test Ban to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World" in Astana, Nazarbayev initiated the international project “Abolish Testing. Our Mission."

Within the framework of this online project, every citizen of the world can sign a petition demanding the cessation of nuclear weapons tests, sending a clear signal to world leaders. To date, a third of a million people from around the world have put their names and signatures under the electronic petition.

The inhuman, indiscriminate, anti-human essence of nuclear weapons is well known to the inhabitants of Kazakhstan, especially the region adjacent to the former Semipalatinsk test site. Therefore, Kazakhstan actively supported the global initiative on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons by participating in three international conferences on this issue in Oslo (Norway), Nayarit (Mexico) and Vienna (Austria) in 2013-2014.

Another important area for building a nuclear-free world is the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones. Today, nuclear-free zones cover most of our planet. Individual states or groups of neighbouring countries impose a legally-binding ban on the storage, testing, use and creation of nuclear weapons on their territory.

Kazakhstan has become one of the initiators of the establishment of a Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ). In accordance with the 1997 Almaty Declaration of the heads of state of Central Asia, the countries of the region – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – worked on the draft CANWFZ Treaty for eight years. This work was crowned with the signing of the treaty on Sept. 8, 2006 in the city of Semipalatinsk.

The signing of the treaty on the land of Semey fully experienced the evil of nuclear weapons and carries a deep symbolic meaning. Many states deservedly call this Agreement “Semipalatinsk."

The Central Asian zone has many features in comparison with other similar zones. In particular, it provides for mandatory signing by all member countries of the IAEA Additional Protocol in support of the absence of intentions to switch nuclear materials from peaceful declared activities to military purposes, which again confirms the strong determination of Central Asian countries to ensure a nuclear-free future of the region. This is the first zone entirely located in the Northern Hemisphere, the only one on whose territory nuclear weapons were formerly located. A feature of the CANWFZ is that it borders immediately with the two nuclear powers – China and Russia – and is in close proximity to India and Pakistan, also possessing nuclear weapons.

An important element of the treaty is the Protocol on Negative Guarantees against the Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons. The Kazakh side was authorised by the zone partners to conduct negotiations on behalf of all Central Asian countries with the nuclear powers on the issue of signing the protocol. On May 6, 2014 at UN headquarters in New York, representatives of the nuclear-weapon states – China, France, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States – signed the protocol. Four of them, except for the United States, have already ratified this document.

New initiatives made by the head of state during his speech at the opening ceremony of the building of the Low Enriched Uranium Bank of the IAEA in Astana on Aug. 29, 2017 are dictated by the desire for a safer world free of nuclear weapons and the concern that this process is experiencing considerable difficulties. In particular, the President of Kazakhstan proposed to resume holding nuclear security summits and take steps to unite the efforts of all existing nuclear-weapon-free zones.


Kazakhstan's historical contribution to global disarmament is indisputable. This was one of the first examples of complete nuclear disarmament in world history.

Kazakhstan has shown an example of high responsibility before present and future generations, convincingly demonstrating by its own example that the basis of security is not nuclear arsenals, but peace-loving foreign policy, internal stability and sustainable economic and political development of the country.

Twenty-six years ago, the people of Kazakhstan made a crucial choice in favor of a world free of nuclear weapons. Our practical contribution to nuclear disarmament gives us the moral right to urge peoples and governments to redouble their efforts to rid our planet of the threat of nuclear self-destruction through strengthening mutual trust.

As the head of our state said in 2006, “the return from the man-made concept of deterrence to the humanitarian trust proposed to the world by Kazakhstan is deeply symbolic and tested by the wisdom of many generations."

As the leader of the global anti-nuclear movement, Kazakhstan has shown the way towards a safer future and is urging the whole world to follow the example of our country and other countries, which have chosen the path of disarmament.

The 21st century should be the beginning of a new era of a world free of nuclear weapons. In this context, Kazakhstan's diplomacy will continue its active work.

Created at : 12.04.2018, 19:25, Updated at : 12.04.2018, 19:25