USA Focuses on Kazakhstan

Is it possible that Washington and Brussels want to strengthen the presence in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan?
According to the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan, the fact that the USA recognized Kazakhstan as a country satisfying the requirements of the US Congress applied to democratization and human rights means that "the USA keeps on rendering official aid to the country." Some time ago the situation was rather hard: early this summer the USA listed Kazakhstan among 92 countries where human rights were violated. It is strange that now, just in less than two months since the country was blacklisted, it is said that everything is OK with democracy in Kazakhstan. Is it possible that the situation there could improved so quickly? 

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the year western mass media focused on an investigation that was called "Kazahkgate". The scandal was as following: management of the Exxon-Mobil oil company was blamed for bribing high-ranking Kazakh officials in the mid-1990s with a view to attain profitable contracts for development of oil fields. The contracts for development of oil fields were obtained through the mediation of James Giffen, the owner of the Mercator commercial bank in New York. As the investigation insists, James Giffen pumped money through false companies registered at the British Virgin Islands to Swiss bank accounts held by Kazakhstan top management. The sum made up at least $78 million. No names of the management were named at that; however as Forbes reported the bank accounts were said to be controlled by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev personally, members of his family and people of his close circle. Once James Giffen was a private advisor to President Nazarbayev and was awarded several governmental decorations for his activity. What is more, alluding to the sovereignty Kazakhstan refused to provide documents concerning the bribery to American investigators.

An idea suggested by Gazeta SNG (CIS Newspaper) seems correct: in fact Washington blackmailed Nursultan Nazarbayev and people of his circle with the "Kazakhgate". It is interesting that April of 2003 was the last time when western mass media paid attention to the scandal. May it be accidental or it was just a pause?

In the middle of July NATO Secretary General George Robertson visited Kazakhstan. In less than a month the US State Department struck Kazakhstan off the black list. Is it just a coincidence? Is it possible that Washington and Brussels want to strengthen their presence in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan?

It is known that NATO's department for scientific and environmental problems appropriated finance to study the oil and gas potential of the Caspian sector of Kazakhstan. Experts are given a year to determine the size of the oil and gas reserves in the country, to determine the prospects of oil and gas extraction which may guarantee energy safety to Turkey and Eastern Europe.

It is very likely that financial or any other kind of assistance rendered to Kazakhstan will be rather sizable. In 2004, the USA plans to appropriate about $4.5 million to Kazakhstan for purchase of ammunition, outfit and training of the Kazakhstan army. It is for sure that the cooperation will be even more extensive.

To all appearances, the USA and its NATO allies will soon intensify cooperation with Central Asian countries. It is not clear yet whether the cooperation will be too extensive and if it might damage Russia's interests in the region.

Photo: Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev

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Author`s name Margarita Kicherova