Friday, December 7, 2007

Kazakhstan's Internal Power Games and the Multi-Vector Foreign Policy Based on Oil and Gas

Kazakhstan-Internal-Power-Games-and-the-Multi-Vector-Foreign-Policy-Based-on-Oil-and-Gas-Cover-Dec-2007

December 7, 2007

ABSTRACT

Kazakhstan's importance derives from its geographic location and its natural resources: primarily oil and gas. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 its president has been Nursultan Nazarbayev, who previously, from 1989 to 1991, was first secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party. Among the new Central Asian states, Kazakhstan is the only one that has implemented a so-called multi-vector foreign policy, which means that Kazakhstan does not want to choose any specific political ally, but that it intends to have good relations with all the countries with which Astana could have profitable diplomatic policies. The aim of this paper is to analyze this multi-vector foreign policy, and to understand whether it is viable only in this specific moment of central Asian history or whether it can be a viable diplomatic tool in the long run as well.        

INTRODUCTION

In recent years Kazakhstan has emerged as an important key player in the geopolitical context of Central Asia and Eurasia. The country is more stable than the other countries that before December 1991 were integral part of the Soviet Union and at the same time it is well endowed with oil, natural gas, iron and uranium. In the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan appeared as a sort of toy state in the influence game (at the political and economic level) played by more powerful actors — which included states as well as international organizations — like Russia, the European Union (E.U.), NATO and China.  But since 2001, Astana has elaborated a new very complex foreign policy, which is called multi-vector foreign policy. According to this policy, Kazakhstan does not choose a specific ally, but considers in the same manner all the actors interested in having relations with Kazakhstan. Among these actors there are primarily Russia, the European Union, NATO, China, the United States and at a lower level Iran, Azerbaijan, Jordan and Egypt. All these countries could be strategic partners for Kazakhstan from a political, military and economic point of view.

Kazakhstan is currently experiencing a difficult political phase. In fact, while it is true that the country is increasing its international political weight, at the same time it is too much based on an autocratic regime. The country has been under the control of President Nursultan Nazarbayev since the end of the Soviet Union, and the opposition has never had an active role in the political arena. In such a situation where the democratic game of politics is difficult, it seems more probable that attempts to change the political system are connected with internal revolution inside the ruling elite. In addition to this, Kazakhstan's important energy sector is managed in a way that resembles more and more the Russian energy sector. In other words, this means to have a present and powerful intervention of the national government. And this political interventionism creates additional risks for the international investors.

The aim of this paper is to try to understand how the foreign policy of Astana is evolving. In particular, at the moment, the two most relevant external actors with reference to Kazakhstan are Russia and China. Both states are really interested in the oil and gas that Kazakhstan is able to offer. At the same time, the relations between China and Russia have never been so relaxed since 1962. But is it still a possible option for Kazakhstan to continue with its multi-vector foreign policy and in specific to maintain good relations with both China and Russia? The approach of this research will be to consider Kazakhstan under two perspectives: one related to its internal politics and the other related to the foreign policy of the country. Eventually, possible scenarios will be traced trying to understand whether the country has to implement any change to its foreign policy.

KAZAKH INTERNAL POLITICS

Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic where the president is the head of the state and the commander in chief of the armed forces. The president may put a veto on the legislation passed by Parliament. On December 4, 2005, Mr. Nazarbayev was re-elected as president in a landslide victory, and he is now serving a new term of seven years. The electoral commission said that he had won over 90 percent of the votes. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.) expressed doubts regarding the necessary international standards in order to have valid elections[i]. In general, Western governments accepted without excessive criticism the result of the elections. After Mr. Nazarbayev had served as first secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party from 1989 to 1991, he was then elected in 1991 president of Kazakhstan for the first time. Since then he has been re-elected to the presidency two other times. He has been in this post for the last 18 years. Government, Parliament and judicial power are all controlled by Mr. Nazarbayev. In May 2007, the Parliament approved a constitutional amendment that permits to Mr. Nazarbayev to seek re-election as many times as he likes. This amendment is valid only for Mr. Nazarbayev — it is an ad personam amendment — and the future presidents will have to follow the Constitution’s proscribed maximum of two presidential terms. According to some analysts, Mr. Nazarbayev may be defined as an oligarch[ii]. He is believed to have transferred to a private bank's accounts at least $1 billion from the oil revenues. Other members of his family control some of the country's most important enterprises. In other words, Kazakhstan seems to be run by the Nazarbayev family. This was the general picture until the spring of 2007 when on May 27, 2007, the prosecutor general of the Republic of Kazakhstan issued an international order for the arrest of Rakhat Aliyev, the Kazakh ambassador in Austria and the husband of the eldest of Mr. Nazarbayev’s daughters. Mr. Aliyev was arrested on June 1, 2007 and later released after the issue of a bond order on June 3, 2007[iii].  According to Mr. Aliyev, Kazakh authorities accused him of ordering the abduction of two bankers. Mr. Aliyev said that the case was aimed at destroying his political ambition to run for the presidency of the republic and that all the charges had been plainly fabricated and created with the specific target of destroying his political credibility. Ten days after his release by the Austrian authorities, he was divorced by his wife Mrs. Dariga Nazarbayeva. He said that he had been divorced without his knowledge or consent[iv]. In reality, the attempt to diminish the political role of Mr. Aliyev had already started some months before. In fact, until February 2007 he had served as first vice foreign minister in the government when he was reposted for the second time as Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Austria (a secondary position). This was the first move to relegate this person to a more marginal role[v]. Following these events in October 2007, in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL, Mr. Aliyev —  still in Vienna where he is trying to get asylum — accused President Nazarbayev of having decided in winter 2006 the assassination of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, one of the leaders of the Kazakh opposition and former minister of information[vi]. This assassination came only three months after the leader of the opposition, Zamanbeck Nurkadilov, had been found shot dead in his house in Almaty. Mr. Aliyev,:

who has never been in the opposition, said, "The order for the elimination of Altynbek Sarsenbaev was given from the territory of Austria, when President Nazarbaev was on holiday in Klagenfurt, Austria, in early February 2006, where [then-speaker of Kazakh's upper house of parliament Nurtai Abykaev] came just for a few hours."[vii]

Many analysts have portrayed this dispute between Mr. Nazarbayev and Mr. Aliyev as a palace dispute that has finally erupted into a war of blackmail. Since last spring Kazakh authorities have continuously looked for any useful data that could accuse Mr. Aliyev. Probably, the real meaning of this story is much larger. The point is that inside the political establishment of Kazakhstan there are growing tensions between groups inside the inner circle of President Nazarbayev. The stake is very high, and as a consequence independent media outlets in Kazakhstan are right now facing a clampdown. According to Joanna Lillis of EurasiaNet:

Representatives of four newspapers say they are facing coordinated measures – ranging from tax and fire inspections to publishing difficulties. Meanwhile, several websites that regularly carry material on the Aliyev case remain inaccessible in Kazakhstan. Journalists from the four weeklies — Respublika, Svoboda Slova, Taszhargan and Vzglyad, all known for publishing articles critical of the government – are unequivocal about the reasons behind what they portray as an attack on media freedom. They point to publications about Aliyev and continuing allegations about who is responsible for the 2006 murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev. [viii]

The core questions that have to be answered are: What are these groups and who are their members? In fact, Mr. Aliyev could not have been alone in performing his actions. Reading between the lines of the Kazakh politics of the last two years shows evidence that Mr. Aliyev was probably backed by his wife, Mrs. Dariga. Because of some family contrasts, the six months after Mr. Nazarbayev’s last re-election (December 2005) had not been politically  easy for the president. In fact, Mr. Aliyev was accused of the assassination of Mr. Altynbek Sarsenbayev although later the “authorities ruled that the chief of the Senate administration, Erzhan Utembaev, masterminded Sarsenbaev's killing. They cited "personal enmity" as the motive for the murder. Several officers of the National Security Committee (K.N.B.) were arrested for carrying out the killing.”[ix] In addition to this, the daughter of Nazarbayev, Mrs. Dariga made some very controversial public statements. In particular, controversy grew a lot after her article "Déjà vu" appeared in the March 10 edition of Karavan, a local newspaper. In that article, Dariga disclosed family secrets that had been told at a family dinner and strongly criticized Kazakh security services,

Citing K.N.B. chief Nartai Dutbaev's "raving" report to President Nazarbaev. Dutbaev, Nazarbaeva wrote, had told the president that "one of his family members -- either Rakhat Aliev, [another Nazarbaev son-in-law] Timur Kulibaev, or Kayrat Satybaldy, Nazarbaev's nephew -- was behind Sarsenbaev's murder." … The opposition immediately picked up on the story -- speculating that Dutbaev likely possessed evidence about the Nazarbaev family's involvement in the killing.[x]

Attacking the family signified attacking Mr. Nazarbayev. When the opposition wanted to use Mrs. Dariga’s article against the president, Mrs. Dariga explained that when she had written the article she was under a negative psycho-emotional state. As a consequence, her father sidelined her from the positions she had owned before (Khabar, the country's leading television station and Kazakhstan TV Channel and Commercial Television). Observers say that the relations between father and daughter – by some considered as the natural successor to the father have soured. What is now sure is that since then Mr. Timur Kulibaev – another Nazarbayev’s son-in-law – has gained a lot of financial power and publicity.

The two factions, which face each other in order to get the leadership of the country, are linked to, on the one side, Mr. Kulibaev and, on the other, to the couple Nazarbayeva-Aliyev. At the moment two things have emerged:

  • The importance of President Nazarbayev, who maintains a balance between the two groups in order to keep his own power.
  • The important role played by the Kazakh intelligence service in the balance of power inside the republic (Mrs. Dariga Nazarbayeva clearly expressed this fact in her famous interview).


In any case the game is still long — Mr. Nazarbayev was born only in 1940 so he is relatively young — but the possible scenarios are relevant for the future of the country. For Mr. Nazarbayev it is important to uphold a low level of tensions between the different factions. If a certain threshold is passed there could be problems for the stability of the country. According to Daniel Kimmage, an analyst in relation to Central Asia, the system in Kazakhstan is not a transitional democracy but a new system based on three elements: a capitalist kleptocracy, pervasive influence groups and a “decorative democracy, sometimes called managed democracy.”[xi] Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has always been considered the most stable of the ex-Soviet countries and this stability has been the key instrument in order to put into action the successful multi-vector foreign policy. If the internal politics is not as stable as it was until a couple of years ago, this could easily mean that an effective foreign policy could be undermined. At the moment, on the basis of realpolitik for Kazakhstan, it is important to avoid any possible negative publicity in the international arena. In particular:

According to Kimmage, Kazakhstan represents a case of "elite balance at the moment." He added, however, that there are no guarantees that the system will stay in balance indefinitely, "because it is not based on rule of law and popular democracy." Kimmage said that the "transitional paradigm" of pushing states toward democratic reform has "outlived its usefulness" and does not apply anymore in the former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan, noting that "the West doesn't have adequate resources to nudge" these states to continue reform. The continuing problem for the West is that Kazakhstan may not remain stable, Kimmage said: "They're stable until they're not."[xii]                    

The problem is totally linked with the evolution of geopolitics in Central Asia. Instability in the region can unbalance the relations of all the actors having a role in Central Asia. The balance of power could move east (China), north (Russia) or more unlikely west (the European Union and NATO, not the United States). And Kazakhstan, which is the regional economic powerhouse of all the five ex-Soviet central Asian republics, is at the core of this balance of power in the area. For instance, when on March 24, 2005 occurred the fall of the long-ruling President Akaev amid street protests and the ascent to power of President Bakiev, this event had few serious effects on Kyrgyzstan’s foreign relations.[xiii] In fact, Kyrgyzstan is probably a sort of beautiful undeveloped Asian Switzerland that apart from mineral ores (such as uranium, antimony and gold), agricultural products and wood products has only negligible quantity of oil and gas. And at this stage of the economic development of Central Asia, for the all the external players interested in the area, Kyrgyzstan does not have as much importance as Kazakhstan's and Turkmenistan's. The elements for which all the actors are interested in developing relations with Central Asia – apart from increasing their political spheres of influence are natural resources of which Kazakhstan is well endowed. The next paragraph will consider the multi-vector foreign policy with reference to all the involved external actors.

KAZACH FOREIGN POLITICS

Astana is following a diversification strategy of its diplomatic activities. From a geopolitical point of view Kazakhstan is a big territory without any access to the sea and it is scarcely populated (around 14 million people inside an area as large as Western Europe). It has 6,500 kilometers of frontier with the Russian Federation and 1,500 kilometers of frontier with China. From these sheer data it emerges how its security is highly dependent on the relations with Russia and China, both important players interested in Kazakhstan's natural resources. Astana wants to maintain a perfect balance between China, Russia and the Western powers, and it is endorsing a foreign policy empty of any ideological content[xiv]. According to this agenda, on the one hand, the relations with NATO, the European Union (in particular with Germany) and the United States do not have to interfere with the relations with China and Russia. On the other hand, the participation of Kazakhstan to international organizations such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (C.S.T.O.)[xv] and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (S.C.O.)[xvi] do not have to interfere with the country's relations with NATO, the European Union and the United States. As Frederick Starr, a Central Asian expert, pointed out:

The challenge for Astana is to balance [the multiple strategic partnerships] in ways that are mutually beneficial, that minimize or curtail the worst tendencies of each partner, and that in the end strengthen the sovereignty and independence of Kazakhstan itself. Because each strategic partner is seen as complementary to the other, both relationships, and the relation between them, must be based on trust. All this requires delicacy and art.[xvii]

It is now important to analyze the foreign relations that Astana has singularly with all the big players interested in Kazakhstan's commodities. All the actors, except NATO (at least for the moment), are directly interested in Kazakhstan, mainly, if not entirely, for its natural resources, which are oil and gas. In fact, Kazakhstan has around 39.8 billion of barrels of oil (half of the Russian reserves and 11 percent of the Saudi reserves) and around 2,860 million cubic meters of natural gas[xviii]. Kazakhstan alone produces two-thirds of all the hydrocarbons coming from the Caspian basin.  

The United States – The events that have followed since the end of 2004 have showed that the American role in the area is not strong. Between 1991 and 2001 Washington never elaborated a specific strategy with reference to Central Asia. The premises after 9/11 were better, but in the last three years the United States has lost a lot of power in Central Asia. The expulsion of the United States from the military base of Karshi-Karabad in Uzbekistan, the growing critics to the American presence in Kyrgyzstan (Manas military base)[xix], the establishment of the S.C.O., and the always more and more active role of both Russian and Chinese oil and gas companies in the whole area show a partial decline of the American presence. Washington does not have yet started a process of rethinking how not to be marginalized in the region. The United States is not in the condition of regaining the lost positions and can have only a low-profile politics principally built up on the political good relations with Kazakhstan (primarily through the American energy companies).  

Russia – Russia is apparently losing the competition with China with reference to the resources of Kazakhstan. Energy is the most important element of friction between the two states. Today Russia represents 38 percent of all the Kazakh imports and Astana has to maintain very good relations with Moscow. In the big game for the Kazakh natural resources Moscow is not only interested in exploiting the resources but also interested in transporting them toward third countries. Before 2001 every barrel of Kazakh oil had to pass through Russia, since then with the new pipeline, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (C.P.C., it is long 1,510 kilometers) from Tengiz on the oriental Kazakh Caspian shore to the harbor of Novorossiysk in Russia things have partially changed. In fact, the operator of the pipeline is mainly Chevron/Texaco. Through this pipeline, in addition to the oil from Tengiz, it is transported the oil from the field of Karachaganak as well. In other words, this is a first step toward the independence from Russian control, although the pipeline still transits through the Russian territory and the Russian government owns a 24 percent quota inside the consortium charged to manage the pipeline. The consortium was established through an international agreement between the governments of Russia, Kazakhstan and the United States. Moscow is contrary to the export Kazakh oil (in the future also the oil extracted from the Kashagan giant oil field, which is managed by the Italian company ENI) via the pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (B.T.C.) and a trans-Caspian pipeline (yet to be constructed) from the Kazakh shores to the other side of the Caspian Sea, to Baku, Azerbaijan. The reason is that Moscow wants to control all the transport routes. In addition, Russia in October 2006 created a new joint venture to process in a plant in southern Russia the gas extracted in the Karachaganak field in Kazakhstan. Russia obtained that a relevant quota of the Kazakh gas after the processing is exported through Russian infrastructure at a superior price (from $100 to $140 per 1,000 cubic meters, while before the price was $47)[xx]. From these data, it emerges that Russia has still considerable political clout in the area.              

China — The geographical location of Kazakhstan is too interesting to be missed for China. In dealing with Astana, the Chinese authorities have shown a high level of flexibility with subtle and sometimes illogical moves[xxi], but in the end their strategy is paying well. Since 1997 Beijing has had important economic relations with Astana. In the latest session of the Kazakh-Chinese Cooperation Committee in Astana, China expressed the intention of building a Kazakh-Chinese gas pipeline of 1,333 kilometers in order to deliver gas from Central Asia to western China. Moreover, on August 19, 2007, just two days after the 2007 annual meeting of the S.C.O. (meeting held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)[xxii], China signed two important energy agreements of which one was with Kazakhstan. And this deal was related to the final phase of a Chinese plan for an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to China. Two-thirds of the pipeline connecting Atyrau, which is on the Caspian Sea, in Kazakhstan, to Alashankou, which is in China along the frontier between the two states, has already been completed. The final phase regards a connection between Kenkiyak and Kumkol both inside Kazakhstan. This pipeline is the most important Chinese energy move in dealing with Kazakhstan, although at the moment the pipeline is envisaged to transport Kazakh oil coming from two minor fields. In the future this pipeline could be attached to the Kashagan field creating a unique important corridor from Kazakh's richest oil area to China. Moscow opposes this project. Several times since 2006, the Russian oil company Rosneft has tried to propose itself as a viable operator to transport Russian oil through this Kazakh pipeline to Alashankou, in China. Yet Moscow would consider this option as a defeat because Russia  would like that all the pipelines passed only through Russian territory. For China the pipeline Atyrau-Alashankou should be complemented by a gas pipeline linking Kazakhstan to China. In summer 2005, China National Petroleum Corporation (C.N.P.C.) and KazMunayGaz, the state-owned oil gas company of Kazakhstan, subscribed an agreement for the realization of this project.                

NATO — Since 1994, for Astana the cooperation with NATO, in the framework of Partnership for Peace, has meant an international protection in addition to the already signed regional agreements with Central Asian countries and Russia. Moreover, this cooperation has meant as well the possibility of receiving economic, military and technological help from the United States.[xxiii] After 9/11 President Nazarbayev positioned his country on the side of the United States in relation to the fight versus international terrorism. Kazakh troops have been sent to Iraq (mission Iraqi Freedom) notwithstanding the big unpopularity of this move — Kazakhstan is a Muslim country.[xxiv] The increased influence of NATO in Central Asia, linked to the strategic cooperation with Kazakhstan, alerted both Russia and China. Finally Russia clarified one point: The indefinite extension of NATO into the former Soviet areas (Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan) would not be accepted passively. Russia is greatly worried about NATO’s intentions. China as well shares this concern. Beijing is scared by the possible extension of NATO’s scope toward the Pacific area. The result of this policy is the worst ever relations in dealing with Central Asia between NATO and Russia and between Washington and Moscow. And this is coupled with best ever Sino-Russian relations since the 1962 rupture between Moscow and Beijing. In 2007 military exercises took place between the two countries and some other additional forces belonging to other S.C.O. member states.[xxv] It is out of question that, although China and Russia are strongly and sharply competing over Central Asian energy resources and that Moscow fears a lot a Chinese expansion in Siberia, the American penetration in Central Asia has created the conditions to open up a new season in the Sino-Russian politics. This Sino-Russian alliance is becoming a vital component of the policies of the two states on three bases: strategic, diplomatic and economic.[xxvi]

The European Union — In the first years after the demise of the Soviet Union, Central Asia was not a priority for the European Union, although there was strong interest in the natural resources of the area. For more than ten years the European action has been essentially petroleum-centric, in the absence of a real political approach.[xxvii] After few years Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (P.C.A.s) were signed with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.[xxviii] With 9/11 things started to change, but in general, the European Union is in a very difficult position with reference to Central Asia. In fact, its weight in the region is limited by geographical distance, a tradition of scarce relations and absence of European states already seriously operating in the area.

Obviously, Central Asia is too important not to be considered by Brussels.[xxix] The European Union focus in Central Asia is on Kazakhstan.[xxx]  For Brussels, all the projects of oil-and-gas diversification cannot work without Kazakhstan. Brussels finds in Astana an important partner in order to define an energy strategy in the so-called Enlarged Black Sea Area (from the Aegean Sea to Azerbaijan).[xxxi] And Astana is trying to boost energy cooperation with Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Astana is sponsoring the emerging Balkan energy transport routes from the Caspian Sea to the European Union. Kazakh authorities give a lot of importance to their participation in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (B.T.C.) oil pipeline. A certain interest of Kazakhstan in the European Union energy market is confirmed by the acquisition done by KazMunayGaz of the 75 percent stake in Romania’s Rompetrol Group with an offer of $3 billion authorized by the European Commission.[xxxii] The problem for the European Union is that KazMunayGaz does not consider a priority the Balkan route and the East European markets. In the competition for the Kazakh natural resources the European countries are technically “superior to their Chinese rivals, but are weakened by the lack of unanimity over energy issues within the European Union on the one hand, and constant disputes with Russia on the other”[xxxiii] Currently, the actual situation of the energy market gives a lot of room to Kazakhstan and the European Union risks losing the battle for the Kazakh natural resources in favor of China. 

Uzbekistan and Iran — In the area another regional player is Uzbekistan that since the Soviet times has been militarily the most powerful country (demographically it has around 25 million people). Kazakhstan wants to have the best possible relations with Uzbekistan for two reasons: first in order to receive natural gas for the southern Kazakh regions and second in order to tighten the Uzbek military forces inside international organization such as C.S.T.O. or S.C.O. Kazakhstan has recently improved its diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan and Iran, although with the latter, in the past, Kazakhstan's military cooperation (at naval level) with the United States and the United Kingdom in the Caspian Sea had been a friction point. To release the tension with Iran, Astana decided to sign an agreement establishing that all the Caspian states were obliged not to concede any military base to a foreign country that wanted to attack any one of the Caspian states. Today, Kazakhstan well understands the political risks, but also the opportunity of shipping oil and gas to Iran and the Persian Gulf. In the last meeting of the heads of governments of the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.S.I.) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Kazakh officials expressed their hopes to sign an agreement with Turkmenistan on the construction of a railroad from Aktau, Kazakhstan, to Iran via Turkmenistan. Kazakh authorities want a clear and direct access to the Gulf.            
.
WHAT FUTURE LIES AHEAD?    

From the analysis of all the actors having a role in Kazakhstan, it is understandable that the situation is moving fast toward new scenarios. Kazakhstan is searching an increased presence in the international arena and it will have in 2010 the chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.). It will be the first time that an ex-Soviet state will assume this chairmanship. For Astana – that wanted to assume this position already in 2009 – it is a symbolic but great success. Many critics pointed out the contradiction between the condition of human rights in Kazakhstan and the mission of the O.S.C.E., but Russia strongly backed the candidacy of Kazakhstan. This is a victory for Kazakh foreign policy and a sign of the more and more important consideration that the country is receiving at the international level[xxxiv]. But will Kazakhstan's foreign policy be sustainable in the future? One element of friction is linked to the internal struggle for power in Astana. President Nazarbayev still holds the power – he is still relatively young – but the future is unclear. The struggle for power is fought inside the family of the president and the consequences may be blurred. In particular, it is to understand which role the intelligence services play in the game for power in Kazakhstan and what the role played by Moscow could be. China is conducting a perfect foreign policy toward Kazakhstan, and it is increasing its sphere of influence in the bordering country that until 1991 was totally closed because it was an integral part of the Soviet Union. Anyway, it is highly improbable that Moscow accepts this situation in the long run in Central Asia, an area that under the Soviet rule was called Middle Asia and Kazakhstan (srednyaya Aziya i Kazakhstan) because the Soviet authorities wanted to differentiate between the most southern parts (different from Russia) and Kazakhstan, which was considered much more similar to Russia. The future of Kazakhstan will be played principally between China and Russia; all the other players in the area have less influence. When the Kazakh ambassador to the United Kingdom, Erlan Idrissov was asked specific questions related to China and Russia during Central Asia-Caucasus Institute’s Forum “A New Kazakhstan” he answered:
China is a huge neighbor of Kazakhstan also with huge markets and potential.  Therefore China will naturally play a big role in Central Asia and in its relations with Kazakhstan.  This is already evident in infrastructure where pipelines are in advanced stages of completion.  Our trade with China has gone from $300 million to $8 billion, and is still growing. … We have excellent relations at the top with Russia; the number of high-level meetings between our two leaders could make the Guinness Book of Records.  They share advice with each other and their personal relations are excellent.  While our governments may diverge from time to time, we can’t afford bad relations!  The recent space launch failure, where debris landed not far from where our President was visiting, however, raises issues of environment, and the terms of the lease of the Baikonur Space Center.  Yet, with the longest land border in the world between our two countries you can understand why we have an “Eternal Friendship Agreement” with Russia.[xxxv]

So Kazakhstan's multi-vector foreign policy for a good part depends also on the relations between Russia and China, which are now at the highest level since 1962, but that in the future risk deteriorating with reference to the energy resources in Central Asia of which Kazakhstan is the jewel of the crown. At the moment both Russia and China have the same strategic vision in Central Asia and Kazakhstan: political stability, defense of the sovereignty of all the states from external influences, opposition to Islamic fundamentalism and multipolarity as a tool to stop the influence of the United States in the area. This is true at the moment, but in the long run it appears that China and Russia will be clashing against each other in Kazakhstan and those issues currently put aside such as the always more and more Chinese influence in Siberia will create new disputes. In particular, it seems highly improbable that Kazakhstan will not support the Russian side, Who at the moment is really missing the new geostrategic reconfiguration of Central Asia is the U.S., which, after the increased post 9/11 military presence in Central Asia, since 2004 has shown a worrying reduction of its influence. The actual perception is that for Kazakhstan the energy policy is more and more decided under the influence of Moscow. The sentence pronounced by the Kazakh minister for resources and energy, Sauat Mynbayev, in October 2007 in Vilnius during an energy summit to which participated the Baltic states and the Black Sea and Caspian Sea countries was very emblematic. At the summit the minister said that all the transport routes through Kazakhstan that would not pass also through Russia would have to be in any case decided with Moscow. In addition to this, what is happening at the Kashagan field is very meaningful as well. In fact, in the last months the Italian oil company ENI has had a very difficult confrontation with the Kazak government.

On August 27, 2007, the government of Kazakhstan suspended all work at the Kashagan field due to environmental violations, “a move that mirrored the Kremlin’s first move against Shell at Sakhalin”[xxxvi]. In addition, the Kazak government gave ENI 60 days to seal an accord (the deadline would have expired on October 22, 2007). If an agreement had not been found, the consortium could have been thrown out of the project to develop Kashagan. Moreover, on September 27, 2007, the Parliament of Kazakhstan approved the law enabling the government to alter or cancel contracts with foreign oil companies if the way they work threatened national interests. Eventually, on October 7, 2007, the visit in Astana of the Italian prime minister, Romano Prodi together with a delegation of 200 people including Italian industrialists and bankers was beneficial to the negotiating process.  In fact, on October 22 – the day of the deadline – ENI and the government of Kazakhstan released a joint statement in which they affirmed that the parties agreed to continue their negotiations beyond October 22, 2007, in a spirit of positive and constructive cooperation[xxxvii]. At the moment this is the latest event and it is not clear what will happen in the next months.[xxxviii]

It seems that behind this Kazakh strategy there is an increased knowledge of its own weight in dealing with public and private foreign actors, but also strong influences coming from Moscow. For all these reasons, the idea that the Kazakh multi-vector foreign policy will continue in the future is nowadays not  sure.
                 
CONCLUSION

Kazakhstan's multi-vector foreign policy has well performed in the last years. This foreign policy could in the short run continue to bring excellent and important results to Astana although there are some doubts about its viability in the long run. Two set of problems arise. One is at the domestic level; the other is linked to all the foreign actors interested in Kazakhstan's natural resources. At domestic level, there are already signs of a serious fight for power inside the closest circle of President Nazarbayev. He is only 67 years old so it may be premature to think of his succession, but it is emerging that internal power games are occurring inside the presidential family with a non-clear position expressed by the Kazakh intelligence service. At the international level, the principal actors interested in Kazakhstan are Russia and China. Presently, they share the same geostrategic vision in relation of Central Asia, an area of which Kazakhstan is the most important state. There are doubts about this alignment to be viable also in the future and probably the possible future tensions could arise exactly around Kazakhstan. The country has very good commercial relations with China, but it is very complicated in the future to see Astana to take a position in contrast with Moscow, with which important links still exist sixteen years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.





[i]Xinhua News Agency reported that observers from the People's Republic of China, responsible in overseeing 25 polling stations in Astana, found that voting in those polls was conducted in a "transparent and fair" manner.
[iii]BBC, Kazakh Leader's Son-in-Law Held, in http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6713171.stm, accessed on December 6, 2007.   
[iv] REUTERS, Nazarbayev's Son-in-Law Is Divorced, in http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2007/06/13/016.html, accessed on December 6, 2007.   
[v]BBC, Feud Splits  Kazakh Ruling Family, in http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6694957.stm, accessed on December 6, 2007
[vi] Sarsenbayev was killed in February 2006 outside Almaty together with his driver and his bodyguard. The Kazakh opposition blamed the regime for the assassination but the government has always denied any involvement. “On February 11 Sarsenbayev was stopped in a Toyota Camry car at around 9 PM in an Almaty district. He was kidnapped along with his driver and bodyguard, and taken to the city district known as Malaya Stanitsa. All three individuals were murdered shortly afterwards. As the investigation into these events unfolded, it became known that five individual allegedly involved were officers in the Arystan special unit. When this was publicly disclosed by the NSC press service on February 21, resignations were inevitable, despite its later clarification that that this involvement relates only to the kidnapping itself not the murders”, in McDERMOTT, R., N., Kazakhstan’s Intelligence Service In Disarray, in  http://www.cacianalyst.org/?q=node/3797, accessed on December 7, 2007.   
[vii]RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, Kazakhstan: President Accused Of Ordering Opposition Leader’s Murder, in http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/10/02926747-4483-4294-9299-9AE71C78562C.html, accessed December 6, 2007.
[viii] LILLIS, J., Kazakhstan: Independent Media Outlets Face Clampdown, in   http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav110107.shtml, accessed on December 6, 2007. 
[ix] SAIDAZIMOVA, G., Kazakhstan: Apparent Rift Opens Within Nazarbaev Family, in http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/05/C68B3EB0-8C9F-4AE1-9B39-344A33610EA7.html, accessed on December 6, 2007.
[x] Ibidem
[xi] RADIO FRE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, Kazakhstan's Domestic Politics on a World Stage, in http://www.rferl.org/releases/2006/09/436-290906.asp, accessed on 6 December 2007.
[xii] Ibidem
[xiii] KIMMAGE, D., 2005 In Review: The Geopolitical Game in Central Asia, in http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/12/509208C8-5D99-481B-8A52-E121E4BD664D.html, accessed on December 6, 2007
[xiv] FUMAGALLI, M., La Dimensione Strategica dell’Asia Centrale fra Russia, Cina e USA, in http://www.ispionline.it/it/documents/wp_18_2007.pdf,   accessed December 8, 2007.  
[xv] In the framework of Commonwealth of Independent States the C.I.S. Collective Security Treaty (C.S.T.) was signed on May 15, 1992, by Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in the city of Tashkent. Azerbaijan likewise signed the treaty on September 24, 1993, Georgia on December 9, 1993 and Belarus on December 31, 1993. The treaty came into effect on April 20, 1994. The current members are: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
[xvi] The organization includes China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as members and India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers. The organization was very active in 2005 and many analysts saw in the organization a powerful regional grouping acting principally in favour of China and Russia. In particular, in July 2005 there was the famous summit in Kazakhstan where it was issued a declaration calling for the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition to provide a timeframe for withdrawal from military facilities on S.C.O territory (the United States has two bases one in  Kyrgyzstan and the other one in Uzbekistan). The following events showed that for the moment S.C.O. is more a forum than a real force. In any case the naissance of S.C.O. means that “Central Asia is not home to client states, but rather to national ruling elites – some weaker, some stranger; some less united – that are able to reap certain benefits by accommodating the wishes of outside powers but are less beholden to external actors than they are to the imperative of maintaining their own continuity in power.” In   KIMMAGE, D., 2005 In Review: The Geopolitical Game in Central Asia, in http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/12/509208C8-5D99-481B-8A52-E121E4BD664D.html, accessed on December 6, 2007.     
[xvii] CORNELL, S., E., Finding Balance: The Foreign Policies of Central Asia’s States, in http://www.silkroadstudies.org/new/docs/publications/2007/Strategicasia.pdf, accessed on December 7, 2007.
[xviii] INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP, Central Asia’s Energy Risks, in Asia Report, no. 133, May 24, 2007, in  http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4866&l=1, accessed December 8, 2007. 
[xix] Bishkek does not have the strength to send away the Americans from Manas. It is a pure bluff, because sending away the American forces is not in the interest of Kyrgyzstan. In reality the problem is linked only to the rent that the United States has to pay in order to use the military base. If the United States was expulsed from Karshi-Karabad in Uzbekistan, S.C.O., China and Russia have never pushed Bishkek to do anything. This is probably due to the real scarce impact of Kyrgyzstan in the geopolitical context.     
[xx] TOSI, S., Le Risorse Energetiche e le Economie Centroasiatiche, in http://www.ispionline.it/it/documents/wp_21_2007.pdf, accessed December 8, 2007.
[xxi]Last December CITIC Group acquired 94.62 percent of the shares in Indonesia’s national energy company for nearly $2 billion and, as promised, sold half of these shares to KazMunayGaz. The deal was welcomed by the Kazakh government, which had become alarmed by unrestrained Chinese expansion into Kazakhstan’s oil sector since the China National Petroleum Company purchased PetroKazakhstan in October 2005. Although last year, under intense public pressure, Astana bought back 33 percent of the shares in PetroKazakhstan from the Chinese and regained control over the strategically vital Shymkent oil refinery, China still holds key oilfields in Kazakhstan”, SHARIP, F., European Energy Consumers Likely to Lose Kazakhstan Battle to “Oriental Bloc”, in http://www.jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2372638, accessed on December 7, 2007.
[xxii]The Shanghai Cooperation Organization recently held its annual summit in Bishkek. Energy-security was reported to be the primary focus of the summit while the Sino-Russian military exercises Peace Mission 2007 held a few days later attracted much attention. Even if these recent events suggest that China-Russia relations may be at an all-time high, the strains between them in the energy sector will likely impede a further strengthening of bilateral ties. Only two days after the summit, China signed two important energy-deals with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan challenging the Kremlin’s advantageous position in the region. Conceived as such, it is an irony that the Bishkek summit will make it into the history books as the summit in which energy-security made its entry.” NORLING, N., SWANSTROM, N., Sino-Russian Relations in Central Asia and the SCO, in http://www.cacianalyst.org/?q=node/4705, accessed December 7, 2007.
[xxiii] REBELO, J., La NATO e il Kazakistan, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, April 7, 2005.
[xxiv] For some months there was the idea of sending Kazakh troops to Afghanistan (mission Enduring Freedom).  
[xxv] “On August 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Hu Jintao and the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan attended the Peace Mission 2007 military exercise in Russia's Chelyabinsk region. The exercise involved mostly Russian and Chinese troops, but also troops from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. About 4,000 troops, 80 aircraft, and 500 combat vehicles participated in the joint exercises. China and Russia supplied the 500 combat vehicles together with 1,600 and 2,000 troops respectively. Not limited to this, China’s armed police (PAP) and Russia’s interior forces carried out a joint counterterrorism exercise dubbed “Cooperation 2007” in September”. NORLING, N., SWANSTROM, N., Sino-Russian Relations in Central Asia and the SCO, in http://www.cacianalyst.org/?q=node/4705, accessed December 7, 2007.
[xxvi] BHADRAKUMAR, M., K., Russia and China Create Their Own Orbit, in http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=BHA20061112&articleId=3825, accessed December 7, 2007; NIKITIN, A., The End of the ‘Post-Soviet Space’ The Changing Geopolitical Orientations of the Newly Independent States, in http://www.gees.org/documentos/Documen-02144.pdf, accessed December 7, 2007.  
[xxvii] VIELMINI, F., Parigi-Berlino-Mosca. Prove d’Intesa in Asia Centrale, in Limes, vol. 6, 2004, p. 272; MATVEEVNA, A., EU Stakes in Central Asia, in Chaillot Papers,  no. 91, 2006.
[xxix] FERRARI, A., L’Unione Europea a l’Asia Centrale, in http://www.ispionline.it/it/documents/wp_22_2007.pdf, accessed on December 7, 2007. MELVIN, N.,J., Building Stronger Ties, Meeting New Challenges: The European Union’s Strategic Role in Central Asia, in CEPS Policy Brief, March 28, 2007
[xxxi] CORNELL, S., E., et al., The Wider Black Sea Region: An Emerging Hub for European Security, in www.silkroadstudies.org/new/docs/Silkroadpapers/0612Blacksea_P.pdf, accessed December 7, 2007.
[xxxii] There are rumors of the possibility of the acquisition of some assets in Slovakia. 
[xxxiii] SHARIP, F., European Energy Consumers Likely to Lose Kazakhstan Battle to “Oriental Bloc”, in http://www.jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2372638, accessed on December 7, 2007.
[xxxiv] PANNIER, B., Kazakhstan to Assume OSCE Chairmanship in 2010, in http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0712/S00101.htm, accessed December 7, 2007. 
[xxxv] IDRISSOV, E., A New Kazakhstan, speech at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute
The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, September 12, 2007, in
http://www.silkroadstudies.org/new/inside/forum/CACI_2007_0912.html, accessed December 7, 2007.
[xxxvi] ROBINSON, A., Have the Oil Majors Bitten Off More Than Every They Can Chew With Kashagan?, in www.oilbarrel.com, October 21 2007. In Sakhalin, Shell admitting to face cost worth U.S.$22 billion versus the previous estimated U.S.$10 billion with reference to the L.N.G. project created an ideal opportunity for Russia to modify the contract. Shell’s stake was reduced from 55 percent to 25 percent and the control passed from Shell to Gazprom.     
[xxxvii] MARKEVIC, S., ENI-Kazakhstan: Siglato Memorandum, Si Va Verso Accordo, in  http://www.italkazak.it, October 24 2007. ARPAIA, A., Le Nostre “Campagne” Energetiche All’Estero: Il Kazakistan, in  http://www.edicolaciociara.it, October 15 2007. A.F.P., Kazakhstan, Consortium Agree to Continue Talks on Giant Oilfield, in http://www.afp.com/home, October 22 2007.      
[xxxviii] BACCI, A., Private Oil Companies and Governments: Today a Very Complex Net of Different Actors. The Mossadegh Case (Iran) and the Kashagan Case (Kazakhstan), Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore, December 2007. See the article here: http://www.alessandrobacci.com/2007/12/private-oil-companies-governments-today.html 


 
BIBLIOGRAPHY

 
ARPAIA, A., Le Nostre “Campagne” Energetiche All’Estero: Il Kazakistan, in  http://www.edicolaciociara.it, October 15 2007.

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CORNELL, S., E., Finding Balance: The Foreign Policies of Central Asia’s States, in http://www.silkroadstudies.org/new/docs/publications/2007/Strategicasia.pdf, accessed on December 7, 2007.

CORNELL, S., E., et al., The Wider Black Sea Region: An Emerging Hub for European Security, in www.silkroadstudies.org/new/docs/Silkroadpapers/0612Blacksea_P.pdf, accessed December 7, 2007.

IDRISSOV, E., A New Kazakhstan, speech at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, September 12, 2007, in http://www.silkroadstudies.org/new/inside/forum/CACI_2007_0912.html, accessed December 7, 2007.

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INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP, Central Asia’s Energy Risks, in Asia Report, no. 133, May 24, 2007, in  http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4866&l=1, accessed December 8, 2007 

KIMMAGE, D., 2005 In Review: The Geopolitical Game in Central Asia, in http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/12/509208C8-5D99-481B-8A52-E121E4BD664D.html, accessed on December 6, 2007.    

LILLIS, J., Kazakhstan: Independent Media Outlets Face Clampdown, in   http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav110107.shtml, accessed on December 6, 2007.   

MATVEEVNA, A., EU Stakes in Central Asia, in Chaillot Papers, No. 91 , 2006.   

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McDERMOTT, R., N., Kazakhstan’s Intelligence Service In Disarray, in http://www.cacianalyst.org/?q=node/3797, accessed on December 7, 2007.   

MELVIN, N., J., Building Stronger Ties, Meeting New Challenges: The European Union’s Strategic Role in Central Asia, in CEPS Policy Brief, March 28, 2007.

NIKITIN, A., The End of the ‘Post-Soviet Space’ The Changing Geopolitical Orientations of the Newly Independent States, in http://www.gees.org/documentos/Documen-02144.pdf, accessed December 7, 2007.

NORLING, N., SWANSTROM, N., Sino-Russian Relations in Central Asia and the SCO, in http://www.cacianalyst.org/?q=node/4705, accessed December 7, 2007.

PANNIER, B., Kazakhstan to Assume OSCE Chairmanship in 2010, in http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0712/S00101.htm, accessed December 7, 2007. 

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RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, Kazakhstan's Domestic Politics on a World Stage, in http://www.rferl.org/releases/2006/09/436-290906.asp, accessed on 6 December, 2007.

ROBINSON, A., Have the Oil Majors Bitten Off More Than Every They Can Chew With Kashagan?, in www.oilbarrel.com, October 21, 2007.

REBELO, J., La NATO e il Kazakistan, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, April 7, 2005.

SAIDAZIMOVA, G., Kazakhstan: Apparent Rift Opens Within Nazarbaev Family, in http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/05/C68B3EB0-8C9F-4AE1-9B39-344A33610EA7.html, accessed on December 6, 2007.

SHARIP, F., European Energy Consumers Likely to Lose Kazakhstan Battle to “Oriental Bloc”, in http://www.jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2372638, accessed on December 7, 2007.

TOSI, S., Le Risorse Energetiche e le Economie Centroasiatiche, in http://www.ispionline.it/it/documents/wp_21_2007.pdf, accessed December 8, 2007.

VIELMINI, F., Parigi-Berlino-Mosca. Prove d’Intesa in Asia Centrale, in Limes, vol. 6, 2004, p. 272.
 
 
 
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